Quetta/Chaman - Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to conduct geological survey to determine which border areas rightfully belong to which side, following Friday’s deadly clashes at Chaman.

Military officials held a flag meeting at Bab-e-Dosti (Friendship Gate) and Chaman crossing in an attempt to quell the mounting tensions. Frontier Corps North Sector Commander Brigadier Nadeem Sohai led the Pakistani side while Afghan National Army Col Sharif headed the Afghan delegation.

It was decided in the meeting that the geological experts would conduct a survey of areas along the border with the help of Google and geological maps.

At the centre of the recent dispute are two villages - Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir – which lie between Pakistan’s Chaman and Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak district and are claimed by both sides fully or partially.

The Friday’s clashes started when Pakistani teams conducting population census in these villages were fired upon by the Afghan Border Police.

In the meanwhile the fresh Pak Army and Balochistan Frontier Corps battalions stand high alert for tackling any untoward situation at border while the aerial monitoring of Chaman was also carried out.

Earlier at the first and second flag meetings, each delegation stuck to their stance which resulted in a deadlock.

The Pakistani delegation claimed that the disputed areas belonged to Pakistan and its possession can be checked on Google Maps, while the Afghan delegation claimed the areas were theirs and demanded their hand over to Afghanistan.

The security forces on both sides remained high alert while a pall of dead calm prevailed at Babe-i-Dosti, which was shut down on Friday.

Commander Southern Command Lt-Gen Aamir Riaz on Sunday inquired after the wounded at Chaman Civil Hospital who were injured on Friday by Afghan shelling.

Talking to the media on the occasion, General Aamir said the Friendship Gate will remain closed “until Afghanistan changes its behaviour”.

The NATO supply and Pak-Afghan Transit Trade goods containers again lined up in hundreds on various sites between Quetta and Chaman thoroughfare.

The migration of people to safer location from adjacent affected areas continued as warning were issued to vacate the areas which are too close to border in view of the tense situation.

On Saturday, the director general of Provincial Disaster Management Authority said that around 2,000 families had been affected by the shelling of Afghan forces and they had been shifted to safer places.

Qilla Abdullah Deputy Commissioner Qaiser Khan Nassar said a tent village has been set up at Purana Chaman for the affected families who have been evacuated from affected and risk-prone areas. He said all fundamental amenities were being provided to the displaced families.

However, reports said that a large number of migrated families preferred staying with their relatives in Qilla Abdullah, Pishin, Quetta, Yaro and Kuchlak.

Damage claims

The shelling from Afghan forces on Friday reportedly killed 12 Pakistanis, ten of them civilians, while 46 sustained injuries.

Kandhar police chief on Friday claimed they had lost only four soldiers in Pakistan’s retaliatory action, but on Sunday another official brought it further down by saying that only two soldiers and one civilian had died on their side.

This came as Pakistan security forces said they had in fact inflicted heavy losses on Afghanistan which they were trying to hide.

“We are not pleased to tell you that five Afghan check posts were completely destroyed — more than 50 of their soldiers were killed and above 100 were wounded,” Major General Nadim Ahmad, head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps told reporters.

“We are not happy for their losses but we were forced to retaliate,” he said, adding two Pakistani soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the incident.

Commander Southern Command in his media talk at Chaman hospital also said, “We had to demolish four to five check posts of the Afghan Army, when they tried to enter Pakistani territory, adding there will be no comprise on Pakistani territory.”

Lt-Gen Aamir Riaz said such befitting response to the Afghan forces was their compulsion as they intended to move into Pakistan.

“Will meet such befitting retort whoever tries to cross the border,” the commander wowed. He termed the skirmish a futile attempt by the Afghan side which caused more damage to them.

Kabul quickly denied the claims.

“A very false claim by a Pakistani Frontier Corp that as many as 50 Afghan soldier lost their lives in Pak retaliation; totally rejected,” tweeted Sediq Sediqqi, a government spokesman.

Samim Khpalwak, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, instead said two troops were lost in the attack, in addition to the death of a civilian.

Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, also said that the Pakistani account of killing 50 Afghan soldiers was “completely baseless”. He said two Afghan border police were killed in Spin Boldak, on the Afghan side of the border, and another 11 were wounded.

Danish said a woman was killed and 30 other civilians were wounded in the attacks, which forced several local residents to flee their homes.

The Line of Trouble and proxies problem

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points at an untidy and poorly marked border. The most commonly used ones are Torkham and Chaman.

The so-called “Durand Line”, a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul, has witnessed increased tension since Pakistan began trenching along it last year.

But the border is not the only area of dispute between the neighbours. Both countries have been accusing each other of sheltering other’s enemies and using them as proxies.

On Feb 17, Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan “due to security reasons” following a spate of terror attacks, including a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistani town of Sehwan that left 90 people dead.

The investigators traced the origin of attacks to Afghanistan, where these terror acts were planned, launched and controlled.

The border however was reopened in March.

Pakistan embarked on the enormous task of conducting its first census in almost two decades in March. The fast-growing country is the sixth most populous in the world, with an estimated 200 million people, but has not held a census since 1998, despite a constitutional requirement for one every decade.

History of current dispute

FC Balochistan Inspector General Major General Nadeem Ahmed in his media talk said they carried out census in the areas that are situated within the Pakistani border.

Talking about the Afghan forces’ attack, the IG said census was carried out in Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir for four days until April 29 when they started to hinder the process. “But we restrained so that peace is not disrupted.”

The next day a meeting between border forces was held where the Afghan authorities told their Pakistani counterparts to resume the census process after three to four days.

“We informed them, but our positive attitude was misused,” he said. “The Afghan forces entered villages on Pakistan’s side and used locals as human shields so that they could make a position for attacks.”

However, on May 4 the Frontier Corps personnel started the operation and by May 5, got hold of their areas back. “We could have done this earlier, but we knew civilians reside in the villages on the border.” He said on Afghan request ceasefire was ordered on May 5.

Major General Nadeem Ahmad said the enemy should not under estimate Pakistan’s strength and made it clear that no one will be allowed to enter Pakistani territory.

He said they used light weapons but warned that any further firing by Afghan forces will be responded with heavy weapons.

General Nadeem made it clear that there could be no debate on international border and they would not allow violation of the border.

The FC chief said he was thankful to the tribal people of Chaman as they were ready to help and also donated blood.