The other border this time

  • Pakistan spreading itself too thin

A skirmish on the Pak-Afghan border in Chitral district has left five civilians and six soldiers hurt on the Pakistan side, and an indeterminate number of casualties among the Afghans, with the ISPR limiting itself to saying that the Afghans used APCs to remove the corpses of the dead. The clash is said to have developed out of a dispute over Pakistan constructing border fencing, supposed to be part of the fence being constructed to prevent anyone crossing the border illegally. Afghanistan portrayed the construction as of being of a border installation. There have been previous incidents of the Afghans firing on Pakistani working parties, which include civilian labourers, because of suspicions about what exactly is being done.

Pakistan is supposed to be helping the US broker a deal with the Taliban. It will not find itself with much ability to talk to the Kabul government, if its soldiers keeps shooting up Afghan troops. At present, however, it seems that the government in Islamabad feels it can do anything. Not only is it trying to broker a US-Taliban deal, it is also doing its best to broker a peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, something which has never before been possible. The incident on the Pak-Afghan border might serve as a reminder that Pakistan might be spreading itself too thin, not to mention that it would be making a gross mistake if it assumed that the parties would take it at its own evaluation.

It would be best if it stopped trying to prove its utility to the US by a Middle Eastern adventure that merely exposes it to charges of being a US lackey, and concentrate on its own issues. A US-Taliban deal that helps Afghanistan move towards peace and stability would be in Pakistan’s interest, and it needs to maintain a good relationship with it if it is to play a positive role in that.