In a repeat of what became a key irritant in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations all of last summer, terrorists from across the border attacked Pakistani security posts in Upper Dir on Sunday, killing six security personnel. Till Monday evening, 11 security personnel were officially reported as missing.

Pakistan on Monday registered a “strong protest” with Afghanistan and Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf said he would take up the issue with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The strong protest was communicated via the Afghan Deputy Head of Mission who was summoned to the Foreign Office. He was told that the Afghan government should take appropriate measures to prevent recurrence of such attacks.

According to the official version put out by the Foreign Office, 100 “militants” from across the border entered Dir and clashed with a patrolling party of Pakistan’s security forces. In the exchange of fire, 11 intruders were killed along with six security personnel. Besides, 11 soldiers are missing. According to AFP, the security personnel killed were beheaded later.

After a series of similar cross-border attacks last year, the two countries had decided to intensify military and intelligence cooperation to prevent such incursions. Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of allowing safe havens for terrorists in its tribal areas. According to Afghanistan, terrorists strike inside the country and then flee through the porous border to their hideouts in Pakistan.

During a visit to Islamabad in June 2011, Mr. Karzai had said: “If those attacks [inside Pakistan] have come from our side, it is our duty to stop them just as it is Pakistan’s responsibility to stop attacks inside Afghanistan from Pakistani soil.” Describing the attacks on Pakistani border posts as a “worrying sign” that provided more reason to work harder to remove radical elements and their sanctuaries from the region, he had added “this [terrorism] has gone beyond tolerance”.

After an initial round of recriminations last year, both sides agreed not to fall into the terrorists’ trap of getting the two countries to spar. However, bilateral relations again began skating thin ice after the Salala attack in November.

Pakistan has always pointed to the existence of safe havens for terrorists in Afghanistan as Maulana Fazlullah — the ‘Radio Mullah’ who had over-run Swat — is said to have set up base in the Kunar province from where he launches attacks on this side of the Durand Line.

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