QUETTA: Amid a claim by the military on Sunday that 50 Afghan soldiers were killed in its response to the Afghan attack on security men escorting a census team in two border villages on Friday, officials from the two countries agreed to conduct a geological survey of the hamlets with a view to removing discrepancies in the Afghan maps.
The decision was reached on Sunday during the third round of a flag meeting at the Friendship Gate in Chaman. It was attended, among others, by geological experts from the two countries.
The fresh negotiations followed two flag meetings on Friday and Saturday that remained inconclusive.
Frontier Corps Sector Commander North Brig Nadeem Sohail represented Pakistan while the Afghan delegation was led by Col Sharif of the National Army at the meeting, which was held amid an uneasy calm in the area with troops on both sides on alert.
Pakistan says 50 Afghan troops were killed in retaliatory action on Friday; Kabul disagrees
The Friendship Gate continues to remain closed and at least 15,000 people from the villages have moved to Chaman town, Qila Abdullah, Quetta and other places since the clashes.
Official sources claimed that some differences were found between “our maps and the ones presented by the Afghan army” during the meeting.
The two sides agreed to conduct a survey of the `controversial’ Killi Jahangir and Killi Luqman villages after the Pakistani and Afghan experts of the geological survey briefed the meeting on the matter.
Military officials agreed that Google Maps would also be considered while conducting the survey.
Sources said that experts of the two geological survey departments would be part of the survey teams.
Since the unprovoked Afghan attack on Friday in which 12 Pakistanis lost their lives and 40 others were injured, Pakistani military had made it clear to the Afghans that the two villages belong to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Aamir Riaz and Inspector General Frontier Corps, Balochistan, Maj Gen Nadeem Anjum said the armed forces would not compromise the country’s territory and any attempt by anyone to intrude into Pakistani side would be foiled with full force.
Gen Riaz, who along with Maj Gen Anjum visited Chaman on Sunday, was talking to reporters.
“Fifty Afghan army personnel were killed and over 100 sustained wounds in retaliation by Pakistani forces,” Gen Riaz said.
“At least five posts of the Afghan forces were destroyed, from where they were targeting Pakistani civilian population,” he said.
In a veiled warning to attempts being made about the two villages, Gen Riaz said the same response would be given to those who were trying to make Pakistan territory controversial.
“The Friendship Gate will remain closed till the Afghan government changes its attitude,” he declared.
Pakistan has deployed more army and FC troops in the area after Friday’s incident.
Maj Gen Anjum told reporters in Chaman that Afghan troops had attacked the census staff and entered the two villages and started firing and shelling on civilians.
“They used the villagers as a human shield,” he said, adding that Pakistani forces responded with full force and got back the area the same day. “We are not happy over the human and other losses suffered by the Afghan forces as they are our Muslim brothers.”
However, he said, the armed forces would not allow anyone to enter Pakistani territory as “we will not compromise on our international border”.
On Friday afternoon, Gen Anjum pointed out, the Afghan government had requested for a ceasefire which Pakistan acceded to.
He said Pakistani forces had not used heavy weapons to avoid civilian losses on the other side of the border. However, he added, Pakistani forces would protect their territorial solidity at all costs.
According to AFP, the Afghan government rejected the Pakistani claim.
Sediq Sediqqi, a government spokesman, in a tweet said that a very false claim by Pakistani Frontier Corps had been made that as many as “50 Afghan soldiers lost their lives in Pak retaliation; totally rejected”.
Samim Khpalwak, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, instead said two troops were lost in the attack, in addition to the death of a civilian.
The Durand Line, a 2,400km frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul, has witnessed increased tension since Pakistan reportedly began trenching along it last year.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2017