Pakistan’s military has begun erecting fencing meant to span its entire 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan in order to stop cross-border infiltration and militants’ attacks in the region, officials said.
In phase one, 43 border posts have been constructed while 63 other are under construction in the Dir Lower, Bajaur, Mohmand Agency, and Khyber Agency border areas, and are due to be completed within two months, a high-ranking security officer told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak the media.
He said the plan also includes building 338 border posts and army forts along the border to stymie infiltration from Afghanistan.
"There are several legal routes to cross into Afghanistan in Chitral, Dir, Bajaur, Mohmand Agency, Tor Kham Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency, North and South Waziristan, and the Chaman area of Baluchistan, but despite these legal routes, there are over 300 [illegal] crossing points, and terrorists always enter via those hard mountainous routes to carry out attacks in Pakistan and now the army will close them," he added.
Pakistan announced last month that was starting to build the border fence after several high-profile terrorist attacks inside the country. According to Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, who heads the Inter-Service Public Relations, a media wing of Pakistan's army, the fencing plan will have two phases: the first already started in the Khyber Pukhtonkhwa and Fata, and the second in Baluchistan.
Protesting the plan, Afghanistan said the Durand Line border between the countries has long been disputed, adding that the fence would create hardships for families who straddle the border.
Pakistan dismissed the Afghan criticisms of the fencing plan, saying the barrier is being raised on the Pakistani side of the border and no one has the right to object.
Speaking to local TV Express News on Friday, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said the border management plan, set to be completed within two to three years, is part of Pakistan's efforts to eliminate terrorism and bring lasting peace to the region.
"The Daesh terrorist group has been gaining strength in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border, as we heard media reports that the group has also captured Afghanistan’s Tora Bora area, so Pakistan will never tolerate any terrorist group setting foot on our soil and these are all efforts underway to eliminate terrorist groups," he said.
Greater safety, more hardships?
Locals in the border areas are pleased at the fencing’s potential to stop cross-border terrorist attacks but also fear it could create hardships for tribes and clans who live on both side of the border.
Rashid Khan of the border village of Shahi in the northwestern Dir district told Anadolu Agency that locals are happy at the fence plan, as militants who fled Pakistan’s Swat and Dir after 2009 military operations now live in Afghanistan’s Kunar province and continue to pose a grave threat.
"I lost my brother and many other relatives since 2010 when militants attacked our village and they killed several people and we are still afraid," he added.
But Ali Hazrat, another Shahi villager, said he has many relatives living on the Afghan side of the border and they regularly visit each other. The fence could make such visits difficult, but army officials have said that there will be a legal route so people can travel and take parts in celebrations, ceremonies, and funerals, he added.
Tens of thousands of Pashtuns live on both side of the border and since the demarcation of the Durand Line in 1893, family members of border communities have been able to freely move back and forth. The practice continued after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
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