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Tribal Leaders Helping In Border Dispute Between Pakistan And Afghanistan

Khost's Zazi Madian District
Khost's Zazi Madian District

Two Pashtun tribes are helping the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to stabilize a stretch of their long border, where recent clashes have left several dead.

On April 23, a joint committee of leaders from the Zazai and Turi tribes is set to map the respective spheres of the two countries on the poorly marked and disputed border connecting Afghanistan’s southeastern Khost Province to Pakistan’s northwestern Kurram tribal district.

A joint jirga, or tribal council, of the two tribes also agreed on April 22 to extend a weeklong ceasefire after clashes erupted on April 15.

Islamabad and Kabul made conflicting claims about how many people were killed in the fighting, and each blamed the other for initiating the violence that erupted in three places of Khost’s Zazi Maidan district and lower Kurram.

“We discussed how we can live in peace and happiness,” Malik Zawar Zazai told Radio Mashaal.

He is one of several Zazai clan leaders who represented their tribe and Afghanistan in the negotiations. “We were helped by military and civilian officials from the two countries,” he said.

Afghan officials claimed the clashes erupted after members of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps attempted to install a border fence in Zazi Maidan. The Pakistani Army, however, said its forces were attacked while carrying out "routine surveillance" along the border.

Malik Haji Hussain, a Turi tribal leader whose Mali Khel clan have lived peacefully along the Zazai, says they are trying to resolve the border dispute.

“We used to live in harmony and cooperated with each other,” he told Radio Mashaal. “While we stand by our country and security forces, our tribes -- the Zazai and [Mali Khel] Turi -- will always seek peace and help end hostilities if forces from our countries clash.”

Afghan authorities have returned the bodies of five Pakistani soldiers killed in the clashes and released a sixth soldier who was captured, according to accounts by both Pakistan's Foreign Office and Khost Governor Hukum Khan Habibi.​

Afghan security officials said two members of the Afghan border police were also killed in the clashes.

On April 20, Muhammad Faisal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, said the two sides resolved the issue through "diplomatic and military channels."

The two neighbors share a 2,500-kilometer border known as the Durand Line, which was first demarcated between Afghanistan and the British Empire in 1893. Islamabad considers it an international border while Kabul does not.

Kabul’s refusal to acknowledge the border led it to condemn Pakistani efforts to fence the Durand Line, which first began last year.

In recent years, forces of the two countries have clashed amid accusations of border incursions and disputes over Pakistani border fortifications.

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