Pak, Afghanistan to create mechanism to handle border issues

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: Jun 24, 2016 21:38 IST
Afghan border police stand guard near the Torkham crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Torkham, the main crossing between the two sides was closed by Pakistani authorities on May 9, with hundreds of Afghan civilians attempting to get to Pakistan waiting in the open for several days. (AFP)

Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Friday to set up a high-level mechanism to coordinate on security issues and border-related matters, days after violent clashes between security personnel caused casualties on both sides.

The decision to constitute the mechanism was made during a meeting of Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz and Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tashkent. Afghan National Security Adviser Haneef Atmar also attended the meet.

The mechanism will handle consultation and coordination on bilateral relations and cooperation on security, movement of people and vehicles between the two countries and other relevant issues, according to a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

The mechanism will be co-chaired by Aziz and Rabbani and the NSAs of both countries will be its members. It will have a joint technical working group to deal with the concerns of both sides.

“The main purpose of this mechanism would be not only to address and resolve issues of concern to both sides through amicable means but also to prevent the recurrence of violent incidents like the ones witnessed recently in Torkham,” the statement said, referring to the recent clashes at the Torkham border crossing.

Clashes erupted at Torkham after Pakistan refused to stop building a security gate on its side of the Durand Line, which is not recognized by Afghanistan as the border. The border crossing was closed for several days because of the clashes in which a Pakistan Army officer and an Afghan border guard were killed.

Torkham is one of the busiest of the eight established crossing points on the 2,500-km porous border between the two sides. It is used by some 25,000 travellers a day.

The two sides also reaffirmed respect for each other’s territorial integrity and adherence to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, the statement said.

President Mamnoon Hussain, who led the Pakistani delegation to the SCO meet, said in his speech that peace in Afghanistan is indispensable.

During their meeting, Aziz and Rabbani said the two sides will work to strengthen relations to promote peace, stability, counter-terrorism and economic progress. The two sides expressed their commitment to “serious efforts towards eliminating the scourge of terrorism” and stressed the need for joint efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through timely and concrete actions, including within the framework of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US.

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