AFGHANISTAN: UN rejects landmines along border
Pakistan plans to lay the mines along its western border with Afghanistan
Kabul, 9 January 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations has rejected Pakistan’s decision to fence and mine the border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militancy.
The UN’s call follows a similar rejection by the Afghan government of the Pakistani plan to plant landmines and build a fence in ‘selected places’ along its 2,400 km border with Afghanistan.
“We regret the decision of the government of Pakistan to proceed with the laying of landmines and we call upon both governments to strengthen their commitment to cooperative solutions to the security problems that this region faces,” Chris Alexander, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan, said on Monday in the capital, Kabul.
Alexander said fencing would not help security in Afghanistan.
“In fact, the UN and most countries of the world are convinced that laying landmines is a very serous threat to the security of the population that live near the places where the mines are laid,” he maintained.
There has been mounting pressure from the international community on the Pakistani government to do more to prevent the infiltration of Taliban militants, who are believed to be hiding along the porous border.
The Taliban, ousted by the US-led coalition in late 2001, are waging a deadly insurgency against the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, analysts say.
“I don’t think it will put an end to the ongoing violence or the cross-border infiltration of Taliban to Afghanistan,” Qasim Akhqar, a local analyst, told IRIN.
Afghan officials have repeatedly blamed some elements of the Pakistani government for supporting and providing sanctuary to Taliban militants but the government has denied the allegations and said it has deployed 80,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan to curb the growing Talibanisation and militancy.
The decision taken in December has also prompted demonstrations along the border in east and south-eastern Afghanistan, where mainly Pashtoon, the majority ethnic group, live. Millions of Pashtoon live on both sides of the border.
“Pakistan doesn’t want to stop Taliban infiltration but wants to divide our tribe and our nation, which is unacceptable to us,” Ghazi Nawaz Tanai, a Pashtoon tribal leader in southeastern Khost province, told IRIN.
“Pakistan should stop those who train, finance, and provide arms to the terrorists inside its government.”
A global treaty against the use of mines was agreed in Ottawa in 1997; the accord has been ratified by more than 150 countries but Pakistan is one of 40 countries, including the United States, that have not signed up.
More than 4,000 people, including 1,000 civilians, lost their lives in 2006 in several suicide bombings and fighting between the government, NATO troops and the Taliban, mainly in the south of the country, which borders Pakistan.