Pakistan to Reconsider Plan to Mine Afghan Border

Pakistan to Reconsider Plan to Mine Afghan Border

Pakistan will reconsider a plan to mine areas of its border with Afghanistan to stop terrorists crossing the frontier, after Canada offered to help find alternative controls, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said.

Pakistan is “happy to receive suggestions,” Kasuri said after meeting Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay yesterday in Islamabad, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan. The government “will give due consideration” to proposals for an effective border control system without the use of mines.

Canada has long experience managing its border with the U.S., MacKay said, adding it is willing to provide technical support, including improving aerial surveillance, training for border guards and satellite telephones.

An escalation of the insurgency by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan last year resulted in a deterioration of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the issue of security. Afghanistan accused Pakistan of failing to stop fighters training in camps on Pakistani territory and crossing the mountainous 2,430-kilometer (1,510-mile) border, a charge Pakistan denied.

Pakistan’s plan to mine and fence border areas won’t curb terrorism, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said last week after talks in Kabul with Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Agence France-Presse reported at the time.

Illegal Movement

“Pakistan is fed up will accusations” about illegal movement across the border, Kasuri said yesterday, adding the authorities want to control the frontier while allowing people to go back and forth legally.

Canada understands Pakistan’s frustration, MacKay said, according to APP. “I have come with the intent of sharing ideas and suggestions that are a better alternative” to laying mines, he said at a news conference.

Canada signed the international Mine Ban Treaty, agreed in Ottawa in 1997 and now ratified by 155 nations. Pakistan is among countries, including the U.S., that have made a political commitment to join the treaty.

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, in a meeting with MacKay yesterday, agreed that Canadian and Pakistani officials would meet to discuss a border control plan, APP reported. Securing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a joint responsibility, Musharraf said.

War of Words

Pakistan and Afghanistan must end their “war of words” and cooperate in fighting the Taliban, Chris Alexander, the deputy representative in Afghanistan for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, said two days ago in Kabul.

The UN’s 1999 resolution that imposed sanctions on Taliban leaders and associates named 142 leaders of the movement, said Alexander. Only a handful have been captured or been reconciled with the Afghan government since the Taliban were ousted.

Pakistan rejects Alexander’s comments and has arrested several leading Taliban operatives, APP cited Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tansim Aslam as saying yesterday in Islamabad.

“Pakistan is not solely responsible for taking action against militants and terrorists,” she said. “To capture undesirable elements and prevent them from entering into Pakistan is the responsibility of the forces operating on the Afghan side.”

The UN official’s comments won’t help the cooperation that is needed to counter terrorism, she said.

Pakistan became a key U.S. ally against terrorism after Musharraf withdrew support for the Taliban regime that sheltered al-Qaeda and was ousted from power in 2001. His government has arrested more than 600 suspected terrorists since then, including alleged al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Mohamed Abdullah Binalshibh, both accused of helping plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.

Islamic parties in Pakistan oppose Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The army has deployed 90,000 soldiers in the Afghan border region.

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