Pakistan will do everything it can to help reduce violence in Afghanistan following an upsurge in Taliban attacks, Prime Minister Imran Khan said yesterday on his first visit to Kabul since taking office more than two years ago.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in September in the Qatari capital Doha but have stalled, and the Taliban still refuses to call a ceasefire. Its attacks have sometimes prompted US airstrikes to protect urban areas.
“Despite the talks, the level of violence is rising, so my idea of choosing this time to come was to assure you that Pakistan will do everything — whatever is possible we will do — to help reduce this violence,” Khan told a joint news conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani reiterated his government’s support for a “comprehensive political settlement for an enduring peace within the framework of our values”.
Mistrust has long clouded bilateral ties. Pakistan last week accused Afghanistan of allowing India to set up camps on Afghan soil for “training, harbouring and launching terrorists into Pakistan.”
Both New Delhi and Kabul deny these charges.
Ghani, whose repeated calls for a ceasefire have been rebuffed by the Taliban, reiterated the need for an immediate truce.
“Violence is not an answer,” Ghani said.
The United States views Pakistan as having a key role in the peace talks, particularly given its influence over the Taliban leadership.
Khan said it was Pakistan that first persuaded the Taliban to talk to Washington in 2018 for negotiations that eventually yielded a withdrawal deal for all foreign forces.
He also credited Islamabad’s efforts in helping start the peace talks in Doha.
“We the people and government of Pakistan have only one concern, and that concern is ... that we want peace (in Afghanistan),” Khan said.
Afghan government officials told Reuters Kabul wants Islamabad to pressure the Taliban into winding down the violence and agreeing a ceasefire and to improve bilateral economic ties.
“The focus will be mainly on the peace process but we won’t keep our hopes high,” said a source in the Afghan presidential palace.
In the last six months, according to Afghan interior ministry data, the Taliban has carried out 53 suicide attacks, while 1,210 civilians are among the thousands killed in violence linked to the insurgency.
Khan’s visit comes days after the Pentagon announced it would reduce the number of US military personnel in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.
President Donald Trump, due to leave office on January 20 after losing this month’s presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden, is seeking to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan, the United States’ longest conflict.
Earlier this year, the Taliban announced two short ceasefires to mark the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
The Afghan government has also blamed the insurgents for a pair of attacks on Kabul education centres that killed dozens of students.
The Taliban have denied involvement, and the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also held a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Mohamed Hanif Atmar in Kabul yesterday to discuss bilateral relations, Afghan peace process and regional peace and security situation.
In his remarks, Qureshi said Pakistan had always been supportive of the dialogue process for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
He noted that peace in Afghanistan was important for peace and stability of the region and it was a matter of satisfaction that the world today is acknowledging Pakistan’s stance and appreciating its facilitator role in the peace process.
Qureshi held that the success of Afghan peace process is imperative for durable peace in the war-torn country.
The foreign minister said the transit trade and preferential trade agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan will help promote the volume of trade and investment between the two countries.
The Afghan foreign minister appreciated Pakistan’s sincere efforts for the Afghan peace process.
During the day-long trip, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is regarded as one of the world’s greatest cricketers and famously led Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992, took out time to meet with excited members of the Afghanistan national cricket team, signing a bat for them.
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