Pakistan has denied threatening Afghan forces against removing the Taliban from the border

Pakistan has denied allegations by Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh that the Pakistan Air Force had issued an official warning to Afghan security forces to repel any action by the latter to dislodge the Taliban from the border crossing of Spin Boldak.

Such allegations “undermine Pakistan’s sincere efforts to play its part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution” for restoring peace in the war-torn country, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO) on Friday.

Saleh had made the allegations in a tweet on Thursday, also claiming that the Pakistan Air Force was providing air support to the Taliban in certain areas.

“Breaking: Pakistan air force has issued official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force. Pak air force is now providing close air support to Taliban in certain areas,

In a separate tweet, he had added: “If anyone doubts my tweet on Pak Air Force & Pak Army warning to d Afg side not to retake Spin Boldak I am ready to share evidence through DM.

The FO denied the allegations on Friday, stating that the Afghan side had conveyed to Pakistan its intention of carrying out an air operation inside its territory adjacent to the Chaman border.

“Pakistan responded positively to [the] Afghan Government’s right to act in its territory. In spite of very close border operations normally not acceded to by internationally accepted norms/ standards/ procedures, Pakistan took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population.”

Pakistan acknowledged the Afghan government’s “rights to undertake actions on its sovereign territory,” it added.

In the statement, the FO recalled that recently, Pakistan had rescued 40 Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel, who had fled into the country.

They were returned to the Afghan government with “respect and dignity, with a declared offer to ANDSF to provide all logistical support as requested,” the FO said.

It added that Pakistan remained “committed to peace in Afghanistan and shall continue to endeavour towards this end irrespective of the detractors.”

“It is, however, important that at this critical juncture, all energies are focused on achieving an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan,” the FO stressed.

Border closure

These developments came two days after the closure of the Chaman border — a key frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan — amid reports of the Taliban capturing the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak.

Pakistan had sealed its border with Afghanistan on Wednesday after Taliban militants wrested control from Afghan forces of the border town of Wesh that sits opposite the Pakistani border town of Chaman.

“Wesh Mandi, which has great importance for Afghan trade with Pakistan and other countries besides business activities, has been captured by the Taliban,” an official of the Chaman administration had told Dawn at the time, quoting reports pouring into his town.

The border was briefly opened on Thursday, on what officials described as “humanitarian grounds”, as hundreds of people remained stranded on both sides of the border.

Peace conference

The allegations by the Afghan vice president and the rebuttal from Pakistan also precede a three-day Afghan peace conference that Pakistan will be hosting over the weekend, starting from tomorrow (Saturday).

According to Tolo News, 21 prominent Afghan leaders, including Abdullah Abdullah, Karim Khalili, Mohammad Younus Qanooni, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Salahuddin Rabbani, Ismail Khan, Ata Mohammad Noor, Sayed Hamed Gailani, Sayed Eshaq Gailani, Batur Dostum and Mirwais Yasini, have been invited to the conference.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had telephoned former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, inviting him and other leaders to the conference.

The Taliban, however, have not been invited.

The FO spokesperson had clarified in a statement on Thursday that Taliban were not among the invitees as they had already visited Pakistan many times and held detailed discussions on the peace process.