ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed to work together not only against the menace of terrorism but also to meet the challenge of energy in the region in their first telephone contact on Monday.

The last known contact between the leaders of the two neighbouring countries was made when ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ghani met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Astana about two months ago.

Both sides in the Astana meeting had agreed to use the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) mechanism as well as bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terrorist groups and to evolve, through mutual consultation, a mechanism to monitor and verify such actions.

However, relationship between the two countries remains cold till date, as the two sides continued to blame each other for acts of terrorism in their respective countries.

On Monday, President Ghani phoned PM Abbasi and congratulated him on his election as the new chief executive of the country, said a PM Office statement.

It added that the Afghan leader expressed satisfaction over the smooth transition and said that it was good for democracy in Pakistan.

The brief statement did not mention any other thing from President Ghani.

PM Abbasi thanked the president and said that terrorism was a common threat for both the countries.

“We will work with Afghanistan for security and stability in the region,” the PM said, adding that terrorism was a common enemy and “we will work together to eliminate this menace from the region”.

“It was agreed to work together to address the challenge of energy in the region and improve the economic condition in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the statement concluded.

Afghan allegations against Khyber-IV operation rejected

Also on Monday, the Foreign Office rejected the allegations levelled by the governor of Afghan province of Kunar that the Khyber-IV military operation was meant to push militants into Afghanistan.

An FO spokesperson in a statement underlined that such statements were contrary to the spirit and understanding arrived at during recent engagements at the leadership level of the two countries. “Such media headlines are misleading and part of the malicious campaign.”

“Khyber-IV is part of the ongoing counterterrorism operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. Our security forces have achieved success in fighting back terrorists,” the statement said, adding: “The political leadership of the two countries had agreed that the two sides would coordinate and cooperate in their action to eradicate the menace of terrorism, which is a common challenge.”

It said that the Afghan defence authorities were informed about the Khyber-IV operation and terrorists fleeing the military action were to be dealt with by Afghan security forces. “So far we have received no support from Afghanistan in Operation Khyber-IV.”

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2017

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