A different deja vu

Pakistan alleges unprovoked firing, but from a different direction

Until recently, reports of ‘unprovoked firing’ by Indian troops into Pakistan were rather common in the Pakistani press. The plot in such stories followed a standard formula — trigger-happy Indian troops fired across the Line of Control in Kashmir, usually killing women and children before being ‘repulsed’ by Pakistani forces. Behind these reports though lay a simple reality: that of Pakistani security forces providing covering fire for jihadi infiltrators. Such reports are not as common now, thanks to the India-Pakistan peace process.

The action has shifted to Pakistan’s western frontier.

Tension on the Pakistani-Afghan border mounted with a second attack on a Pakistani security post in North Waziristan Agency in as many days prompting “appropriate response” from Pakistan’s security forces.

ISPR DG Major General Shaukat Sultan told Daily Times on Tuesday that there was unprovoked heavy fire from across the border from Afghanistan on Monday and Pakistani security forces gave a “befitting reply”.[DT]

However, the border security commander in Afghanistan’s south-eastern Khost province, Mohammed Ayub, told AFP that the Pakistanis started it. “Pakistani militia or Army wanted to cross the border and enter Afghanistan so the local Afghan militia forces attacked the Pakistani militia. There were no reports of casualties,” he said.

“In many parts of Khost, Pakistani security forces cross the border and set up check-posts on the Afghan soil. The main problem is that the Pakistanis do not respect international rules,” Ayub added.[The News/Jang]

The Pakistani soldiers were attempting to salvage the wreck of an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The Afghan forces may have fired on the Pakistanis to prevent them from doing so.

But the tactics look familiar enough and can also indicate some covert cross-border ‘movement’: American special forces hunting al-Qaeda operatives or Taliban fighters returning to Afghanistan.

Another familiar feature is the dispute over the Durand line that forms the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan finds itself supporting the status quo here, while the Afghans have never really accepted that legacy of colonial British political cartography.

Related Link: Rahimullah Yusufzai reports from the frontier area.

Update: JK writes that the Associated Press fell for it. The headline writers reflexively wrote of India-Pakistan tensions caused by the border firing!

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