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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said Friday that Afghan forces resorted to unprovoked fire at the Chaman border, and the exchange of fire resulted in numerous casualties and deliberate/serious damage to State infrastructure on the Pakistan side.

"On 30 July 2020, at the Friendship Gate Chaman, Afghan forces opened unprovoked fire on innocent civilians gathered towards Pakistan's side of the international border," Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said.

She said that Pakistan troops deployed on the posts were also simultaneously engaged by Afghan posts. Pakistan troops responded to protect our local population and acted only in self-defence. It is reiterated that Pakistan force did not open fire first and responded in self-defence only.

To de-escalate the situation, she added, the Pakistan side immediately activated both military and diplomatic channels, and it was after hectic efforts that firing was stopped from the Afghan side. "It must be noted that the borders with Afghanistan were opened for pedestrian movement and trade, upon the request of the Afghan authorities," Farooqui said.

She said that Pakistan was undertaking concerted efforts to ensure regulated movement of trade between the two countries, which were being challenged by elements opposed to such regulation. Moreover, due to Eidul Azha, pedestrians' movement was also allowed.

People gathered for this purpose were deliberately targeted by Afghan forces for incomprehensible reasons. She added that the unfortunate incident resulted in numerous casualties and deliberate/serious damage to State infrastructure on the Pakistan side.

There were, reportedly, unfortunate losses on the Afghan side as well. All this could have been avoided, if fire had not been initiated from the Afghan side, she added. "Pakistan reiterates its sincere readiness to further enhance fraternal relations with Afghanistan in the interest of peace and stability in the region. We hope our constructive efforts will be reciprocated," the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz has said that Pakistan has always extended all possible cooperation to Afghanistan, and both the countries shall make all out efforts to normalise situation at the borders.

While addressing a press conference here on Friday concerning Thursday's unwanted incident at the Chaman Border, the minister that the problem was created by the elements opposing peace on the Pak-Afghan border.

He said that after the Covid-19, like other countries, Pakistan also closed down borders with neighbouring countries but considering the Afghanistan situation, Pakistan in collaboration with the Afghan government off and on allowed transit of essential goods to Afghanistan as the country depended on Pakistan for exports and imports.

Faraz said that on July 30th, some miscreants on the Chaman border, which was closed created problem, which was fueled by start of firing from Afghanistan at Pakistani security forces and posts, as some people forcefully tried to cross the border.

The minister said that as a matter of routine, up to 4,000 people cross from Chaman to Afghanistan on a daily basis but due to border closures some people were left behind who instigated by some elements to forcefully cross the border, which created an unwanted situation.

He said that Pakistan had always facilitated the Afghan brethren, and would continue doing so in the best interest of the people of Afghanistan but the Afghan government was required to control elements who wanted to sabotage peace on the borders.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020