JALALABAD - Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets on Monday chanting “death to Pakistani invaders” to protest against cross-border attacks that they claim have killed dozens of people.
In recent weeks tensions have sharply risen on the border that runs alongside the restive Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar, which villagers say have been bombarded with hundreds of rocket attacks.
Pakistan says its security forces may have fired a few accidental rounds into Afghanistan while pursuing militants. It also says that insurgents from Afghanistan have crossed the border to attack security checkpoints.
About 500 people rallied in eastern Jalalabad city, capital of Nangarhar province, carrying banners and chanting “Death to the Pakistani invaders. We condemn the Pakistani military invasion of our country.” Police installed barricades along the road leading to the Pakistani consulate, where the protesters appeared to be heading.
The escalating border dispute has badly hit relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan at a key juncture in efforts to find a political solution to a decade of conflict in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani the attacks must stop, while the Pakistanis summoned the Afghan ambassador and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has complained back to Karzai.
On Thursday, military officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan met in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar and agreed to hold more high-level talks and meetings between commanders on the border to defuse the row.
Western and Afghan officials see assistance from Pakistan as crucial to efforts to open up a communication channel with the Taliban amid early stage contacts over peace talks. “The government must respond with heavy artillery onto Pakistan’s soil,” protestor Ahmad Janan told Reuters in Lashkar Gah. He was carrying a banner that read “The blood of our innocent people will not be spilt in vain”, Reuters reported.
US Lieutenant General David Rodriguez said on Monday that foreign forces were concerned about the persistent shelling and were meeting with Pakistani counterparts to “prevent senseless shooting from occurring in the future”.