By Aamir Latif, and Shadi Khan Saif
In an unprecedented move, the Pakistani army on Friday summoned Afghan diplomats to its headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and handed them a list of 76 “terrorists”, who, according to Islamabad, are operating from Afghanistan.
The move -- yet another sign of deterioration in the already tense relations between the two countries -- came amid a fresh wave of suicide bombings and blasts across Pakistan this past week, which killed over 100 people and injured more than 300.
In addition, Pakistan has also closed the two main border crossings -- Chaman, and Torkham -- for an indefinite period.
A statement Friday from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry confirmed that Islamabad had transmitted a list of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) terrorists to Afghan authorities.
The statement said Pakistan's adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, who effectively acts as the foreign minister, phoned Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar urging Kabul to take action against the terrorists involved in recent acts of suicide bombings, and allegedly based in Afghanistan.
"He expressed serious concern that JuA continued to operate from its sanctuaries and safe haven in Afghanistan for undertaking terrorism in Pakistan and the government of Afghanistan had not paid heed to Pakistan’s repeated calls on the Afghan government to take action against the group and its activities based in Afghanistan," the statement added.
“The summoning of [Afghan] diplomats to the army headquarters is, no doubt, unprecedented,” Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador of Pakistan to Kabul from 2002 to 2005 told Anadolu Agency. “But probably, it was the magnitude and size of the tragedy that propelled the army to do that. It might have found it the quickest way to transmit its demands to the Kabul government.”
- Ghani condemns attack on Sufi shrine
Pakistan accuses the “Afghanistan-based” militants loyal to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a coalition of different militant groups -- of which JuA is a splinter faction -- of carrying out the terrorist attacks and demands that Kabul “take action and hand them over to Pakistan”.
Kabul, however denies the charges, and itself accuses Islamabad of supporting the Haqqani network, a militant group reportedly involved in a series of attacks across Afghanistan in recent years.
Pakistani army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor alleged that the “recent acts of terrorism are being executed [following] the directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan".
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack on the Sufi shrine in Pakistan.
On Thursday, a suicide blast inside a famous shrine in Sehwan town of the southwestern Sindh province killed at least 88 people.
"The Afghan government with its honest determination for peace has proved itself in fight against terrorism with so many sacrifices, and awaits [from] other countries to perform their responsibility in the fight against terrorism,” a statement from the Arg (Presidential palace) said.
Afghan authorities also accused Pakistani border troops of “continuously” shelling the Lal Pur district of the eastern Nangarhar province , which borders Pakistan's Mohmand Agency tribal area.
A woman and her young son have been confirmed dead due to cross-border shelling into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Faridullah Dehqan, spokesman for the Afghan National Police (ANP), in the eastern Kunar province bordering Pakistan's tribal area said the shelling had started Thursday evening and continued till Friday noon.
- Mistrust only benefitting militants
The mounting diplomatic tensions have further added to an already existing mistrust, which, according to analysts, is only benefitting the militants in both countries.
“The first and foremost thing the two countries should do is to re-establish contacts. The ongoing situation is only favoring the militant groups,” Mohmand said.
The former diplomat observed that Islamabad did have the right to demand strict and swift action against wanted terrorists from Kabul, but “while making policy in this regard, it should incorporate and realize that the capacity of the incumbent Afghan government to act against militants is very limited”.
Mohammad Nizamuddin, a Kabul-based security analyst, added the militants had exploited the lack of coordination on security and intelligence matters between the two countries.
Analysts observe that the resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban could help in regard to breaking ice between Islamabad and Kabul, however, the chances of that happening were “very low”.
“The entire reconciliation process itself is very complicated, and the preconditions from both [Afghan government and Taliban] sides have made it more complex”, Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghan affairs told Anadolu Agency.
Yusufzai added that Islamabad had gradually lost its so-called influence over Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan brokered the landmark first round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government, and the Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015, but the process broke down after Taliban announced the death of their long-term leader Mullah Omar triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.
Chances for a resumption of the stalled process dimmed further following the death of Omar’s successor, Mullah Mansour in a U.S. drone strike last year in Pakistan.