June 14, 2016
ISLAMABAD—A Pakistan army officer and two Afghan soldiers have died, while at least 30 people were wounded on both sides in this week’s cross-border skirmishes, officials said.
The situation at the busy Torkham border crossing remained tense, and the main gate there was still closed for a third day on Tuesday, leaving thousands of travelers stranded on both sides.
In an overnight action, the Pakistani military was said to have moved heavy weaponry, including tanks, and deployed additional troops to the border, raising fears of more fighting.
Afghan commanders confirmed beefing up security on their side of the frontier by deploying reinforcements.
Pakistani officials said Tuesday an army major, Ali Jawad Khan, who was injured in the clashes the day before had died of his wounds.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid tribute to Khan, saying he became a “victim of aggression” on the border and “sacrificed his life in defense of his country.”
Authorities said the fighting has so far wounded at least 11 Pakistanis, mostly civilians, and forced scores of families to flee to safer areas.
Afghan officials say two of their soldiers have been killed and at least 18 other people have been wounded since the clashes broke out on Sunday.
Afghanistan and Pakistan blame each other for starting the conflict.
Islamabad says its border forces were constructing a gate on their own side to “effectively” deter terrorist and other illegal movements when Afghan security forces resorted to “unprovoked” cross-border firing.
The Afghan government defended the action saying no new construction could be undertaken at the border without mutual consent.
Speaking to VOA from Kabul, deputy presidential spokesman Dawa Khan Menapal reiterated his government is seeking resolution of the dispute through diplomatic means.
However, he said the defense of the people of Afghanistan and its territory is the responsibility of the government.
Afghanistan and Pakistan share a more than 2,500-kilometer long porous and disputed border, called the Durand Line.
Kabul has blocked repeated demarcation attempts by Islamabad, rejecting the contours of the boundary that was drawn by former British rulers of the Indian subcontinent.