Chaman rocket fire escalates tensions

At least six civilians were martyred and over two dozen sustained injuries when Afghan forces fired rockets into the Pakistani territory from across the Chaman border on Sunday evening, in a major escalation in tensions between the two neighbours since Taliban’s return to power in Kabul.

The rockets landed in Killi Sheikh Lal Muhammad, a senior administration official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Rocket attacks from the Afghan side left six civilians dead and dozens of others injured.

The military also confirmed the incident, “Afghan Border Forces opened unprovoked and indiscriminate fire of heavy weapons including artillery/mortar onto the Civilian population in Chaman, Balochistan causing Shahadat of 6 civilians with another 17 individuals being injured,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

The ISPR said in a statement that the Pakistani forces gave a measured response to the aggression to avoid any civilian casualties. “Pakistani border troops have given befitting albeit measured response against the uncalled-for aggression, but avoided targeting innocent civilians in the area,” read the statement.

The media wing of the military further said that Pakistan had approached the Afghan authorities in Kabul to highlight the severity of the situation and demanded strict action to obviate any such recurrence of the incident in future.

Initially the casualties were taken to the Chaman Civil Hospital, where an emergency had been declared. "We have received six bodies," Dr Malik Achakzai, the medical superintendent of the civil hospital said. However, he gave a higher number of the injured, saying 30 people were brought to the hospital for treatment.

Waseem Baig, the spokesperson for the Quetta Civil Hospital told The Express Tribune that seven seriously injured persons were brought in from Chaman for medical treatment. He added that two bodies were also brought to the provincial capital.

Residents of Killi Sheikh Lal Muhammad said that the rocket firing started all of a sudden and that those landed very close to their homes. "We were sitting inside the house when a rocket landed near our house," a local resident, Nizamuddin, said. He added one of his cousins was martyred in the attack.

The Pakistan-Afghanistan border Chaman, which was closed for eight days last month and reopened on November 21, had again been closed in the aftermath of the latest aggression. The Friendship Gate was closed in November after a terrorist attack in which one Frontier Corps (FC) soldier was martyred.

Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Quddus Bizenjo strongly condemned the attack. In a statement the chief minister directed the local administration to protect the civilians. He directed the health department to make sure provision of better health facilities to the injured.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah expressed concern over the rocket fire from across the border and said that details related to the tragic incident were being collected. He expressed grief over the deaths and injuries to citizens and asked the Balochistan government to provide full support to the affected citizens.

The latest incident came at a time when the relationship between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban government are already tense because of resurgence of terrorist attacks. Pakistan says the interim government was not taking action against the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates.

Since the Taliban’s return to power, Pakistan has seen 51% more attacks. On November 28, the TTP ended a ceasefire with Pakistan and resumed attacks. Last week the head of Pakistan diplomatic mission in Kabul narrowly survived an assassination attempt.

When the Taliban returned to power in Kabul in August 2021, Pakistan was hopeful that the new regime would address its security concerns. But the Taliban refused to take action against the TTP and instead offered to broker a deal with the terrorist outfit.

Pakistan reluctantly joined the peace process that led to a truce first in November 2021 and then in June 2022. However, the process could not lead to a formal peace accord. On the contrary, the TTP seemed to have used the ceasefire and peace talks to regroup.

There has been a surge in terrorist attacks in the country particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan where the TTP has targeted the security forces. Army Chief General Asim Munir also visited the Tirah Valley in the Khyber district of K-P and vowed not to let spoilers undo the gains of the war on terror.


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