Pakistan Army major injured in Torkham firing dies

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A Pakistan Army major injured in Torkham firing succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday.

“Pakistan Army Major Ali Jawad Changezi has succumbed to his wounds,” a security official confirmed to The Express Tribune.

Military’s media wing ISPR also confirmed the news of Changezi’s death in a Facebook post.

Islamabad has strongly protested to Kabul over Sunday night’s ‘unprovoked firing’ by Afghan security forces at the Torkham border crossing as authorities clamped a curfew on the main border town amid renewed tensions between the two militancy-plagued neighbours.

Afghan border guards started ‘unprovoked firing’ at roughly 9pm on Sunday to disrupt the construction of a gate on the Pakistani side of the border. The military released an image on Monday, showing the under-construction gate is 37 metres inside Pakistani territory.

Two Pakistani border guards and nine civilians – including women and children – were injured in the firing that continued till 5am on Monday. Pakistani forces effectively retaliated, and an Afghan official claimed that one of their soldiers was killed and six were wounded.

In Islamabad, the Afghan charge d’affaires was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey Pakistan’s strong protest over the ‘unprovoked firing’.

“The Afghan charge d’affaires was told that the firing incident was contrary to the spirit of friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. “The Afghan side was urged to thoroughly investigate the incident and share the findings with Pakistani authorities. It was further emphasised that all steps should be taken to avoid recurrence of such incidents in the future.”

It added that the gate at Torkham border crossing was being constructed to facilitate cross-border movement of people and vehicles.

“The under-construction gate is 37 metres within Pakistani territory,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said and released a picture in support of the claim. “This gate is considered essential to check and verify documentation of all those who cross the border. It will check the move[ment] of terrorists,” Lt Gen Asim Bajwa wrote on Twitter.

2 Afghan policemen Killed

Two Afghan policemen were killed and nine others wounded in gunfights since Sunday, said Mohammad Ayub Hussain Khil, border police chief in eastern Afghanistan.

“The firing continued till 7:00 am (Tuesday). The border is now closed until the tension subsides,” he told AFP.

Tit-for-tat move

In Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador Abrar Hussain was called to the Afghan foreign ministry to register a protest. However, the Pakistani envoy rejected Kabul’s objection to the construction of the gate at Torkham.

Border management system starts functioning at Torkham

“The ambassador told the Afghan side that Pakistan is building a facilitation centre well inside its territory that will help mostly Afghans and there is no justification for Afghanistan’s opposition,” a diplomatic source said. Ambassador Abrar also clarified that Afghan forces triggered the skirmish.

The Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement that Deputy Foreign Minister Naseer Ahmad Andesha told the Pakistani envoy that the construction of the gate at Torkham “is against the understanding” between the two countries. He claimed that Pakistani security forces fired at the Afghan border forces.

Senior Afghan leaders also blamed Pakistan for the border clash. Chief Executive Abdullah spoke on the issue in his speech to the council of ministers. “Pakistan wanted to build new installations and Afghan border forces didn’t allow that. Pakistan fired towards Afghan forces,” he said.

“We’ve currently agreed to a ceasefire with Pakistan. We hope this problem will end through the work by diplomatic addresses,” Tolo TV quoted Abdullah as telling the ministers. “This [border tension] doesn’t help anyone’s interest”. However, hours after Abdullah’s speech, border guards from both sides again traded heavy fire.

Curfew imposed

Political administration in Khyber Agency imposed a curfew in Torkham and Landikotal in early hours of Monday and closed the Pak-Afghan Highway right from Hayatabad to Torkham for all kinds of traffic. As a result, hundreds of vehicles were stranded at different points on the Khyber Pass, especially at Takhta Beg, Parangsum and Begyari check posts.

Fears of fresh fighting forced Shinwari tribesmen living in Torkham to move to their relatives in Landikotal and elsewhere in Khyber Agency. Business activity in the region has also come to a standstill. Torkham is the busiest border crossing between the two countries.

Shah Hussain Shinwari, the president of the Khyber Agency chapter of ANP, demanded that the administration deploy Khasadar force for the security of the abandoned houses in Torkham. Dozens of Shinwari tribesmen, including women and children, had to walk miles to reach Landikotal when the border clash started, he said.

Afghanistan has blocked repeated attempts by Pakistan to build a fence on sections of the roughly 2,200-km long frontier, rejecting the contours of the boundary, known as Durand Line.

Torkham is one of the major crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where hundreds of trucks and thousands of people cross the border daily through the Khyber Pass.

The border was closed over similar clashes last month, but was reopened after an understanding was reached between the two countries.

Pakistan, Afghanistan increase border troops

Pakistani security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said the army had moved heavy weaponry and additional troops to the Afghan border on Monday night.

On Monday, an Afghan border police commander also confirmed that reinforcements had been deployed to the Afghan side of the border.

General Raheel attends funeral

Army chief General Raheel Sharif attended the funeral of Changezi along with Director General ISPR, Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa and other senior officers of the Pakistan Army.

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