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KABUL: The Afghan government summoned a Pakis­tan diplomat to explain Prime Minister Imran Khan’s latest remarks on ongoing Afghan peace talks, as tensions flared between the neighbouring countries once again.

Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs summoned the diplomat to object about rem­arks that it deemed “explicit interference” in Afghan affairs, the ministry’s spokesman, Sibghatullah Ahmadi, said on Twitter.

It marks the fourth time in about a month and a half that Kabul has demanded an exp­lanation from Islamabad for comments related to peace talks aimed at ending 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

In late March, Afghanistan recalled its ambassador from Islamabad for PM’s suggestion that forming an interim Afghan government might smooth peace talks between US and Taliban officials. The ambassador returned shortly after Pakistan clarified Mr Khan’s remarks as being reported out of context.

But on Friday, Mr Khan addressed the matter again at a rally in Khyber tribal district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in which he explained his original comments as “brotherly advice”, according to accounts published in Afghan media.

“I had no intention of meddling in the internal affairs of Afghanistan but I still believe that peace could be restored in the neighbouring country only when an impartial inte­rim government is given mandate for holding of free and fair elections,” he reportedly said.

Mr Khan said he considered Afghans his brothers and truly wanted and prayed for a peaceful and prosperous neighbouring country. “De­­ca­des of war have destroyed Af­­ghanistan and I pray to Almighty Allah to restore peace to that country,” he added.

“Afghanistan considers recent statements of Imran Khan explicit interference in internal affairs of Afgh­anistan and deems PM’s remarks a return to his previous stance,” Ahmadi tweeted.

US and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks but the Taliban have refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s mandate officially expires in May. The date for the next presidential election has been postponed twice and is now set for Sept 28.

Ghani has been shut out from the peace talks and is under pressure from rivals to step aside and allow a caretaker government to take over, a suggestion he has rejected.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2019