ISLAMABAD: A high-level Afghan delegation, which visited Islamabad on Friday to discuss their concerns about the continued presence of Taliban bases in Pakistan got a cold shoulder in the federal capital and was, instead, advised to resume peace talks with the Taliban.
The Afghan delegation, which included Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Acting Defence Minister Masoom Stanekzai and Intelligence Chief Rahmatullah Nabil, could not get anything substantive after their meetings in Islamabad.
The delegation met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz.
“The two sides agreed to maintain close contact to promote bilateral cooperation, address all issues of common concern, and evolve a strategic consensus to respond to security challenges of the region,” a statement from the Foreign Office after the talks said.
The Afghan delegation had embarked on the visit with a confrontational tone promising to present Pakistani leaders evidence of Taliban presence in Pakistan and demand the removal of their bases from the country.
The visit followed recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, which for the time being look to have thrown the relationship that had improved over the past few months, back into crisis.
Speaking to the press hours before the arrival of the Afghan delegation, Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, hoped that the “misunderstanding between the two countries would be cleared soon”.
At the talks Mr Aziz did not make any fresh commitment but echoed the military by warning against “spoilers and detractors” trying to drive a wedge between the two countries. He underscored the need for mutual trust.Apart from that he renewed Pakistan’s offer to facilitate a dialogue with the Taliban – something about which President Ashraf Ghani in his press conference last Monday said that his country was no longer interested.
A security source also confirmed that the emphasis of the Pakistani side was on carrying forward the reconciliation process that was suspended last month ahead of the second round of peace talks after the disclosure of Taliban chief Mullah Omar’s death.
President Ghani’s outburst against Pakistan earlier this week and allegations made by Afghan spy agency NDS about Pakistan’s role in Kabul attacks struck a sour note with Islamabad.
The Pakistani establishment was furious about President Ghani publicly lashing out at the country after discussing the matter with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif over the telephone a day earlier.
The delegation, despite inclusion of the NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil and acting defence minister Masoom Stanekzai, could not meet Gen Raheel Sharif or the ISI Director-General Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar.
The Foreign Office said Mr Rabbani reaffirmed Afghanistan’s desire to work closely with Pakistan to enhance mutual cooperation in all areas of common interest. He concurred with the imperative of common endeavours for countering terrorism and for enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2015