Photo: Social Media

Pakistan blames Taliban’s “unlawful” construction for Torkham border clash

Pakistan has blamed the Taliban for building “unlawful” construction inside its territory that led to a deadly clash and subsequent closure of the Torkham border crossing.

On Wednesday, the Torkham border, which is the main point of transit for travelers and goods between Afghanistan and Pakistan, was closed by Pakistan after Taliban and Pakistani border guards exchanged heavy gunfire, killing at least eight people and wounding 20 others.

The crossing remains closed for the sixth day today while hundreds of vehicles loaded with supplies, including perishable goods, have been stuck and thousands of travelers stranded on both sides.

In a statement Monday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch accused Taliban border guards of the skirmish, saying Taliban forces opened indiscriminate firing on Pakistani security outposts and marred structures at the Torkham Border Terminal.

Pakistan, she added, cannot accept the construction of any structures by the Taliban inside its territory since these violate its sovereignty. 

Baloch’s remarks come following the Saturday statement of the Taliban’s Foreign Ministry which, on the contrary, blamed Pakistani border guards for starting the clash.

The statement indicated that Pakistani border guards opened fire on Taliban forces while they were repairing an old security outpost close to the border.

While denying this charge, Baloch said the Taliban’s statement came as a “surprise” as the Taliban authorities knew the reasons behind the closure of the crossing “fully well.”

Baloch stressed that the “unprovoked” firing by the Taliban border guards “invariably emboldens the terrorist elements” which she said are being sheltered inside Afghanistan.

This Pakistani spokesperson called the Taliban’s comment on Pakistan’s dependency on trade “irrelevant” and “unsolicited.”

“For the last several decades, Pakistan has facilitated Afghan transit trade and will continue to do so. However, Pakistan cannot allow the misuse of the transit trade agreement.” Baloch mentioned in the statement.

Baloch reiterated her country’s commitment to resolving bilateral issues and concerns through constructive dialogue to avoid further dividend, something the Taliban statement also echoed.

She asserted that Pakistan expects the Taliban authorities to be “mindful of Pakistan’s concerns, respect the territorial integrity of Pakistan, and ensure that the Afghan territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Pakistan.”