Pakistan’s Artillery Shelling on Eastern Provinces
After months of incessant shelling from Pakistan’s soil on Afghanistan’s eastern parts, the Afghan government has fiercely objected the shelling through the highest political and diplomatic channels. According to the reports, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concerns with the artillery shelling from Pakistan on Afghanistan’s eastern provinces in a phone call with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In the phone call, President has demanded immediate cessation of the artillery shelling on Afghan territory, warning that the issue would seriously damage relations between the two countries. Sharif has promised to raise the issue with the relevant institutions in the country and take necessary steps for resolving the issue, the reports said. Moreover, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conveyed Afghanistan’s objections through Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul.
In recent years, the shelling has been one of the main bones of contention between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan sees the attacks on Afghanistan as putting pressures on the government of Afghanistan. However, the government of Pakistan maintains that the artillery shelling into eastern provinces of Afghanistan occurs inadvertently when Pakistani forces are fighting against insurgent groups in tribal areas of north-west Pakistan. Afghanistan usually responds the shelling cautiously, and mostly through diplomatic channels. However, incidents of border skirmishes and cross-border shelling like in recent days have intermittently soured bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ahead of the runoff round of election in Afghanistan, intensification of the cross-border shelling is suggesting that Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are not going to shift from their previous policies to cooperating with Afghanistan for providing security during the upcoming elections. Pakistan’s civil government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pledged to help Afghanistan in providing security for the second round of elections. However, it is crystal clear that without a policy shift by Pakistan’s army and intelligence body the promises made by Islamabad go nowhere until Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are continuing playing double standards towards Afghanistan’s peace and the insurgent groups based on Pakistani soil.
Afghan security officials have claimed that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, is assisting the militant groups in their efforts to disrupt the elections. Islamabad says it stationed thousands of troops across the border on its soil during first round of elections in Afghanistan to prevent penetration of the militants into Afghanistan and will do so the same in the second round of the elections. However Afghan security officials have been suspicious of Pakistan’s intentions and sincerity for helping in providing security for the elections in Afghanistan.
So far there is no single hint whether Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies will help Afghanistan in fighting the militant groups and providing security for the critical elections. Despite Islamabad’s willing to assist Afghanistan in making negotiations with the Taliban, Pakistan’s military and its intelligence branch, ISI, will continue playing all available cards including the Taliban and border incursions to advance their agenda for post-NATO Afghanistan. In this theme, Pakistan will likely continue to use the artillery shelling on Afghanistan’s eastern provinces as a card for undermining security in a large area of the country.
By: Abdul Maruf “Ghiasee”