In a rejoinder to the Afghan government’s statement on the closure of Torkham border, the Foreign Office said on Monday that Islamabad expected Kabul to respect its territorial integrity and ensure Afghan soil is not used to launch militant attacks in Pakistan. The Torkham border was closed on September 6 after at least two people, including a Frontier Corps (FC) official, were injured when a gun battle erupted between Pakistan and Afghan border forces. Officials in Pakistan blamed the other side for starting the midday firefight, which lasted for around two hours and came after the Afghan authorities started building a checkpoint on their side in a prohibited area, close to the main border crossing. Officials said the Afghan authorities already had a checkpoint, commonly known as the Larram Post, in the vicinity, but they started building another post over a small hill without discussing it with the Pakistani side. A day earlier, a meeting between Pakistani and Afghan border security officials to reach an agreement over the reopening of the border remained inconclusive. At the same time, however, a statement issued by the Afghan foreign ministry expressed concern over the closure of Torkham gate and termed it contrary to the values of a “good neighbour”. The statement blamed Pakistan for initiating the firing and said the Afghan forces were only carrying out repair work on an old security checkpost constructed several years ago. “The closure of Torkham gate can adversely affect bilateral and regional trade and could cause trade and financial losses to merchants on both sides,” the statement added. “[This] not only harms the bilateral trade but also fosters distance between the fraternal people and countries while also creating impediments and delays for regional trade and transit. In a statement Monday, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that the statement by the Afghan foreign ministry had “come as a surprise as the interim Afghan authorities know fully well the reasons for the temporary closure” of the border. The FO spokesperson said that Pakistan could not accept the construction of any structures by the interim Afghan government inside its territory since this violated the country’s sovereignty. Baloch said that on September 6, Afghan troops had resorted to “indiscriminate firing, targeting Pakistan military posts, damaging the infrastructure at the Torkham border terminal, and putting the lives of both Pakistani and Afghan civilians at risk, when they were stopped from erecting such unlawful structures”. “Such unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on Pakistani border posts cannot be justified under any circumstances,” the FO spokesperson said, adding that such unprovoked firing by Afghan forces emboldened terrorist elements. “These [terrorist] elements are enjoying sanctuaries inside Afghanistan as confirmed by the UN Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team in its latest report,” she added. The FO spokesperson said that Pakistan had always stated that it wished for the border with Afghanistan to be one of peace and amity between the two countries. “We have welcomed our Afghan brothers and sisters with open arms for decades. Pakistan has continued to exercise restraint and prioritise dialogue in the face of persistent unwarranted provocations by Afghan troops deployed along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. “Temporary closures take place only in extreme cases such as the September 6 incident on the border or when Afghan soil is used to launch terror attacks inside Pakistan,” Baloch said. She also highlighted that the statement issued by the Afghan foreign ministry included “irrelevant comments and unsolicited advice” about Pakistan’s economy and foreign trade. “For the last several decades, Pakistan has facilitated Afghan transit trade and will continue to do so. However, Pakistan cannot allow the misuse of the transit trade agreement,” the FO spokesperson said. She added that Pakistan stood ready to resolve all bilateral issues and concerns through constructive dialogue. “We expect the Afghan interim authorities to be mindful of Pakistan’s concerns, respect the territorial integrity of Pakistan and ensure that the Afghan territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Pakistan,” the FO spokesperson said.