QUETTA: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday started a joint survey of the Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir villages along their border near Chaman following last week’s deadly clashes, officials said.
The two sides had on Sunday agreed to conduct a geographical survey of the villages to “remove discrepancies”.
The start of the survey coincided with remarks from senior officials of the two countries, reiterating their positions on the incident in which several people on both sides lost their lives.`
The clashes occurred on Friday when Afghan forces opened fire on census workers and troops escorting them in two border villages. Islamabad claimed 50 Afghan troops were killed in retaliatory action, a claim Kabul denies.
Kashif Nabi, a local administrator in Balochistan, said the surveyor teams, which included military officers, arrived in the border villages on Monday and were working “amicably”. The situation is calm but the border crossing remains closed, he added.
“Officials from both sides launched the survey in the border villages along with experts,” a senior security official said, adding the job would be completed in three to four days.
They said that after completion of the survey a report would be sent to Islamabad for approval.
Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that neither side “wants any violence between our two countries or any loss of life”.
He was addressing a joint press conference in Islamabad with the visiting Foreign Minister of Oman Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Mr Aziz said diplomacy must overcome the “misunderstandings and restore trust,” but Afghan forces fired first which necessitated retaliation. After the initial retaliation, he added, other channels have also been employed to de-escalate the tension.
He said the two sides agreed to look at the demarcation line in the area. “I hope in the next couple of days the issue will be resolved through meetings between local commanders as well as at the high-level commanders,” he added.
Meanwhile, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal said that only two Afghan soldiers were killed and seven others injured in retaliatory action. “Woke up to celebratory front page headlines today on all Pakistani papers saying Pakistan killed 50 Afghani soldiers and injured 100 in Chaman clash,” Mr Zakhilwal tweeted.
The truth is only two Afghan soldiers were killed and about seven others injured, he added. On Sunday, Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Aamir Riaz said that 50 Afghan security personnel were killed and another 100 injured as Pakistani forces retaliated to unprovoked firing by Afghan forces. He also said that five Afghan posts were destroyed.
The Afghan envoy slammed the reports, saying, “the Chaman clash left casualties, deaths and injured on Pakistan side too but we, instead of celebrating, called it unfortunate and regrettable”. He said that the loss of even two lives “are too many if our claim for seeking good neighbourly relations is genuine and if we mean well for each other”.
It should be noted that on Sunday Inspector General Frontier Corps Maj-Gen Nadeem Anjum had said: “We are not happy with the human and other losses suffered by the Afghan forces since they are our Muslim brothers.” He said that on Friday the Afghan government had requested for a ceasefire which Pakistan accepted.
In a related development, China expressed the hope that Pakistan and Afghanistan would address their border issue amicably for the sake of peace and stability.
In reply to a question in Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that the “Chinese side had noted relevant report” about the death and injuries to Pakistani citizens due to unprovoked firing in Chaman by the Afghan forces on the security forces assigned census duties.
“As a close neighbour to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Chinese side hopes the two sides will properly address the relevant issue,” he added.
Afghanistan refuses to recognise the Durand Line, established more than a century ago when the British Empire controlled much of South Asia, as the international border.