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COAS, Afghan envoy discuss steps to boost ties

Updated September 21, 2017
RAWALPINDI: Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal calls on Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ on Wednesday.—INP
RAWALPINDI: Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal calls on Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ on Wednesday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal on Wednes­day and discussed with him steps to improve bilateral relations.

“Today, met with Pak­istan’s COAS Gen Bajwa for detailed discussion on host of issues including steps helpful for peace and stability for both nations,” the Afghan envoy tweeted after the meeting.

The meeting came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly urged Pakistan to cooperate for curbing extremism.

Earlier, in his Eidul Azha message, he had offered political talks to Pakistan, saying the normalisation of bilateral ties was a national priority for Kabul.

The offer was received coldly in Islamabad, which wants a more broad-based dialogue that includes security and intelligence elements.

Wednesday’s meeting was the second between the two in as many months. Last month’s interaction was followed by a series of contacts, which gave an impression of a move towards the normalisation of the relationship that has mostly remained strained except for a brief bonhomie at the start of Ghani’s tenure in 2014.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long-running border dispute. Kabul refuses to accept the Durand Line as the international border.

Their armies have skirmished because of border disputes and Kabul’s resistance to Pakistani attempts at fencing the porous border to check unauthorised crossings.

Both sides have also squabbled over terrorist sanctuaries, accusing each other of harbouring terrorists.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, in a brief statement issued after the meeting, said: “Issues of mutual interest including security situation were discussed. The gradual improvement in bilateral cooperation was also noted with satisfaction.”

A source said Gen Bajwa and Dr Zakhilwal reviewed the progress in ties made since their last meeting and deliberated on the next steps.

The ambassador later spoke at the National Defence University on the “prospects and challenges for peace in Afghanistan”.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017