Hundreds of residents of the Khost province in northeastern Afghanistan took to the streets to protest the cross-border airstrikes carried out by the Pakistan military on April 16. Protesters chanted slogans saying, “stop killing innocent Waziristanis.”
At least 47 people, including children and women, died in the airstrikes while over 20 were injured in the Khost and Kunar provinces. The killings have invoked strong condemnation from the Taliban government in Afghanistan. On April 16, the acting foreign minister of the Taliban government, Amir Khan Mutaqqi, summoned the Pakistani ambassador and expressed his strong protest against the attacks.
Most of the people killed in the attack were displaced refugees from north Waziristan in Pakistan. Khost province is home to thousands of displaced Waziristanis.
“This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan … The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side. It will cause instability in the region,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters.
Locals informed Tolo News that the people targeted in the attacks in Pasa Mela, Karrai and Misafar areas were “innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the Taliban or the government.”
Thousands of Afghans marched in #Khost city earlier today to protest against savage attacks of Pakistani army against civilians. The protestors changed 'death to Pakistani army'. pic.twitter.com/6VYwQwekP8
— Sangar | سنګر پیکار (@paykhar) April 16, 2022
Ever since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021, cross-border skirmishes on the Durand line (nearly 1,600 miles of the border with Pakistan) have persisted. Thousands of Afghans regularly cross into Pakistani territory through the porous borders for medical treatment and trade.
According to reports, the strong presence of the Tehreek–e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an extremist outfit near the western borders, has repeatedly triggered violent clashes between the Pakistan military and the insurgents.
Sunday’s airstrikes seem to have been carried out in retaliation to the militant attack in northwest Pakistan last week. On April 15, at least seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in an ambush in Pakistan’s North Waziristan. While no militant outfit took responsibility, the attack in the Isham area was blamed on the TTP.
The militant outfit has inflicted heavy losses on the Pakistani forces in the past. In February, six Pakistani soldiers were killed in firing by suspected militants.
“Those internally displaced persons who had crossed Pakistani borders before the start of the operation Zarb-e-Azb continue to be trapped in Afghanistan; there is no state policy to aid them. The latest attack by the Pakistani forces is not only tragic and unfortunate but something that should have been avoided. There should be an inquiry and subsequent action against the one who planned this attack,” Mohsin Dawar, a member of the Pakistan National Assembly, said.