ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani on Friday said this week’s terrorist attack on two military posts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Lower Chitral district was an “isolated incident” and not sanctioned by the interim Afghan government.
On Wednesday, at least four security men embraced martyrdom while more than 16 fighters were killed as militants’ attempts to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan were foiled by troops deployed along the border with Afghanistan.
Militants had attacked two security checkposts in the southern part of the district. The pre-dawn attack had targeted check posts in Astui Pass and Jinjiret Koh situated in the south of Lower Chitral, bordering the Afghan province of Nuristan. Astui Pass is located in the Bumburet Valley, one of the three valleys in southern Chitral where the Kalash community resides.
“Terrorists’ movement and concentration in Gawardesh, Pitigal, Barg-i-Matel, and Batash areas of Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan had already been picked up and were timely shared with the interim Afghan government,” the military’s media wing had said, adding that the Afghan government was “expected to fulfil its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for perpetuating acts of terrorism against Pakistan.”
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack through its spokesperson, Mohammad Khorasani.
Commenting on the matter while responding to a question on rising terrorism in Pakistan emanating from Afghanistan, FM Jilani told media: “It was an isolated incident and we don’t think it had their (Afghan government) sanction.”
The foreign minister later reiterated his stance and said ongoing dialogue with the Afghan government on surging militancy was “very positive”.
FO calls for international attention on weapons in Afghanistan
Separately, Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch voiced apprehension about the “large amount of weaponry” available in Afghanistan and in the possession of terrorist entities, adding that it posed a threat to Pakistan.
Her statement comes two days after White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication John Kirby disagreed with the impression that the United States had left behind about $7 billion worth of weapons in Afghanistan and militant groups were now using those weapons against Pakistan. Instead, he had said the equipment was transferred to and belonged to the Afghan National Army.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar had recently said that the US leaving behind equipment of war in the war-torn country had a greater role in the recent surge in militancy than the Taliban coming to power in Kabul.
During a weekly press briefing in Islamabad today, Baloch was questioned about the discrepancy in Kirby’s remarks and Pakistan’s perspective that the weapons were Nato and US leftovers, to which she refrained from commenting on.
“With regard to the arms in Afghanistan, we are concerned that the large amount of weaponry that is available in Afghanistan and has now reached some terrorist entities as well, continues to pose a threat to Pakistan, especially when these terrorist entities attack Pakistani civilian and military targets,” Baloch said.
She added that the FO did not want to “assign blame” to anyone but “the situation needs international attention”.
The FO spokesperson hoped that all “relevant parties” would understand their responsibility in this respect.
She said Pakistan was concerned about the Chitral incident, adding that it had shared its concerns regarding the “terrorist threat against Pakistan that emanates from the Afghan soil” with the interim Afghan government and the dialogue would continue.
“All these concerns and developments are relevant to the opening or closure of the border as well,” she said while responding to a question on the closure of the Torkham border after clashes between Pakistan and Afghanistan border forces, leading to a build-up of trucks laden with goods.
Uptick in terrorist attacks
Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in recent months, especially in KP and Balochistan, after the outlawed TTP ended its ceasefire with the government in November last year.
In July, as many as 12 soldiers of the Pakistan Army embraced martyrdom in separate military operations in the Zhob and Sui areas of Balochistan.
That was the military’s highest single-day death toll from terrorist attacks reported this year. Before this, 10 personnel were martyred in a ‘fire raid’ in Balochistan’s Kech district in February 2022.
A report released in July by the think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies said the first half of the current year witnessed a steady and alarming rise in terror and suicide attacks, claiming the lives of 389 people across the country.
Amid the rise in militancy is a backdrop of growing concerns regarding cross-border terrorism by elements based in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s military leadership and former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose tenure ended last month, both raised concerns over the availability of “safe havens” and “liberty of action” available to militants in Afghanistan, saying there was also involvement of Afghan citizens in terror attacks in Pakistan. They had also urged Kabul for action.
In the initial response to these allegations, Taliban spokesperson in Qatar Suhail Shaheen had told media that Kabul was committed not to allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any other country.
But in a separate interview with BBC Pashto, another spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate, Zabiullah Mujahid, took a harsher line — ostensibly in a bid to play to the Afghan galleries — advising Pakistan to resolve its internal problems itself, instead of pointing fingers at others.
More recently, Afghanistan’s supreme leader had warned Taliban members against carrying out attacks abroad. But merely days later, the Afghan authorities had alleged that dozens of banned Islamic State militants from Pakistan were killed or captured in Afghanistan in the past year.
A media report last month had quoted an official from the KP Counter-Terrorism Department as saying that Islamabad and Kabul were in contact with each other to address the issue of militancy.