Afghan refugee camps on Pakistani soil are serving as “safe havens for terrorists” due to the unfettered movement of people from Afghanistan into Pakistan, argues a top Pakistani official.
His comments come amid intensifying clashes between Afghan and Pakistani border guards.
“We have re-established our writ over [Pakistan’s] FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], but if [the] Afghan border remains unregulated, our tribal areas can’t stay safe,” declared Sartaj Aziz, an adviser to the Pakistani prime minister on foreign affairs, during an interview with SAMAA TV.
His declaration follows a Pakistani military operation that targeted terrorist hideouts in tribal areas, reports Afghanistan’s TOLO News.
The Pakistani “armed forces destroyed the militants’ infrastructure in tribal areas,” adds Pakistan’s DAWN newspaper.
Aziz blamed the policies Pakistan implemented during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan for the terrorist safe havens at the refugee camps and the growing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying, “5 million refugees came here, along with drugs, guns bringing instability to Pakistan.”
“Then occurred 9/11 and then the Mujahideen that we, US and other countries jointly created were thrown out [from Afghanistan] into our tribal areas and then started a wave of suicide attacks and terrorism which killed more than 7000 Pakistanis,” he added.
Aziz called for a gradual repatriation of Afghan refugees, noting that Pakistan needs a plan of action for the process.
He described a meeting between an Afghan delegation and Pakistani diplomatic staff on Monday as amicable, saying that “both sides agreed upon developing a mechanism for border management,” notes DAWN.
In response, Sayed Zafar Hashemi, a spokesman for the president of Afghanistan, reportedly said:
Senior Pakistani officials should think about the issue of terrorist organizations and networks operating inside Pakistan. The Pakistani remarks raise questions about the kind of action needed against terrorist groups in that country.
US allies Pakistan and Afghanistan have a history of accusing each other of supporting terrorism.
“At least three million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan,” reports TOLO. “The recent rifts between Kabul and Islamabad have made life difficult for the Afghan refugees.”
Fighting between the Afghan and Pakistan border authorities erupted in recent weeks over the building of a border gate by Pakistan at Torkham crossing, which connects the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar with Pakistan’s FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistani officials claim the gate “is well on its side of the border and will help stop militants from crossing and help fight drug trafficking,” reports Reuters.
The clashes have killed at least two people and wounded nearly 25 others, including children.