Pakistan to tighten borders as Kabul seeks help on elections


ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) is clueless as to what exact measures are to be taken to check unauthorised crossings from Pakistan into Afghanistan and from Afghanistan into Pakistan during the Afghan presidential polls tomorrow (Saturday) while Kabul has sought Islamabad’s help for the ‘effective holding’ of presidential elections.
“Naturally, there have been requests — and we would be taking additional measures for security,” FO spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam told a weekly press briefing on Thursday. 
She said that Pakistan would increase security along its border with Afghanistan. “Beefing up security means there will be more vigilance. At this stage I can’t say what measures would be taken, but we would like to make sure that there are no unauthorised crossings.” In response to a query whether the Afghan Election Commission has sought any help or support from Pakistan for the effective holding of the presidential polls, Aslam said, “As Pakistan has consistently emphasised; these elections are an Afghan affair, with relevant Afghan institutions in the lead. We recognise the hard work of the electoral institutions in the planning and completion of technical preparations. We also hope that despite threats from extremist groups, voters in Afghanistan will cast their votes in record number. We expect that efforts of the Afghan election authorities would be assisted by international partners. For its part, as on previous occasions, Pakistan would beef up security along the border during the elections.” The spokesperson, however, fell short of detailing the steps taken to ensure foolproof security at the Pak-Afghan border. 
“At this stage, I cannot say what exact measures will be taken but we would like to ensure security from our side,” she said when asked if the Western border was to be sealed or additional troops were to be deployed on the eve of Afghan presidential polls.
She asserted that primary responsibility for the provision of security during the elections rested with Afghan security forces and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). 
“Ensuring peaceful elections is the primary responsibility of the Afghan National Security Forces supported by ISAF...Pakistan has no interest in the Afghan elections being disrupted as it would only complicate the efforts to stabilise that country.”
Aslam said that the Afghan authorities did not seek Pakistan’s assistance for the provision of polling facility to the millions of registered Afghan voters living here. “Whenever Afghanistan requested us to assist them with their voting, we have done it. This time, we did not receive any request.”
On Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to Iran, the spokesperson said that precise dates for the said visit were being worked out. “The two countries are discussing this. We would like to see a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission before the prime minister’s visit so that we have substantive agenda for this visit which is awaited from the Iranian side also.”
In an apparent retraction from what Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz earlier said on striking a balance between Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia and those of Iran, Aslam said: “He did not say that Pakistan would like to seek a balance in its relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. He said that we keep a balance in our relationship with various Muslim countries.”  

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