KARACHI, Pakistan / KABUL, Afghanistan
Pakistan and Afghanistan appear to have been locked in fresh diplomatic wrangling with the latter accusing Pakistani forces of killing three children in cross-border shelling on Wednesday.
According to an Afghan official, the shelling that began last week killed three children and injured six others in the mountainous Dangaam district of northeastern Kunar province on Wednesday afternoon.
Ghani Musmim, the provincial governor of Kunar in the country’s northeast, told Anadolu Agency that children were playing when mortars “fired by Pakistani forces” hit them.
He also claimed hundreds of mortars were fired in the past one week alone on various parts of the province.
The development coincides with the reports that the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban are inching closer to a much-awaited deal aimed at finding a negotiated settlement of a lingering conflict in Afghanistan.
Last week, the Afghan envoy to the UN Adela Raz through a letter lodged a complaint against the alleged cross-border shelling calling upon the UN Security Council “to take necessary measures and actions to put an end on the identified violations”.
Pakistan, for its part, denied the charge regretting the “Afghanistan government’s twisting of facts about some recent incidents of firing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border”.
“As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not fire across Pak-Afghan border,” said a statement from the foreign ministry adding that the cross-border attacks by terrorists on Pakistani troops were responded to only in “self-defense”.
“Pakistan has formally shared location of these terrorist camps in the areas mentioned and has requested Government of Afghanistan to deploy its forces in these areas to bring it under their effective control,” read the statement.
“We hope Afghanistan will do the needful in line with the mutual understanding on these issues,” it added.
Kabul and Islamabad have long been accusing each other of providing safe havens to terrorists.
A series of terrorist attacks in both countries, for which the two sides blame each other, has put a further strain on already tense relations in recent years.
In December, Pakistan confirmed that it had arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban paving the way for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
The process, however, is still awaiting a breakthrough as the Taliban have been holding peace talks with the U.S. for nearly a year but refuse to recognize or negotiate with the Afghan government.