Pakistan and Afghanistan discussed the growing threat of terrorism in the region, particularly from the banned militant groups Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), in high-level talks held in Kabul on Wednesday.
The Foreign Office (FO) said that the Pakistani delegation arrived in Kabul earlier in the day for talks with officials of the interim Afghan government on security-related matters, including counter-terrorism measures.
A press release from the FO, issued later in the day, said the delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif met Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, Defence Minister Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
“Matters relating to the growing threat of terrorism in the region, particularly by TTP and ISKP, came under discussion. The two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism posed by various entities and organisations.
“Both sides agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in various fields to further enhance the fraternal relations between the two countries,” the FO said.
In photos released by the Afghan prime minister’s office, the Pakistani delegation — comprising Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed Khan, Chargé d’Affaires (CdA) to Afghanistan Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani and Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq — can be seen meeting Mullah Baradar alongside Asif.
Meanwhile, a statement from the Afghan Council of Ministers (prime minister) said the two sides discussed economic cooperation, regional connectivity, trade, and bilateral relations.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are neighbours and should have cordial relations. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants expansion of commercial and economic relations with Pakistan as such relations are in the interest of both countries,” the statement quoted Mullah Baradar as saying.
He noted that political and security issues should not affect trade and economic matters between the two countries and be kept separate from political and security problems.
The statement said that the Afghan deputy prime minister asked the Pakistani delegation to release Afghans detained in jails across Pakistan.
He also urged Pakistan to ensure facilities for Afghan passengers at the Torkham and Chaman-Spin Boldak borders, with special consideration for emergency patients.
The statement added that the Pakistani side assured the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to resolve the problems. The delegation said that the concerned ministries and committees would be asked to step up efforts for solutions to these problems.
The meeting comes as the Pakistan-Afghanistan Torkham border — the main trading and border crossing point between the two countries — remained closed for the third straight day on Tuesday after a deadlock over starting a dialogue prevailed between border officials.
Earlier this week, the Afghan Taliban had shut the border crossing, accusing Pakistan of reneging on its commitments.
The Afghan Taliban commissioner for Torkham had said the border was closed down for travel and transit trade. “Pakistan has not abided by its commitments and so the gateway has been shut down on the directions of (our) leadership,” Maulavi Mohammad Siddique had tweeted.
According to unconfirmed media reports, the interim Afghan government was irked by an unannounced ban on the travel of Afghan patients seeking treatment in Pakistan.
On Feb 21, an exchange of fire between Pakistan and Afghanistan was also reported at the Torkham border in which a security guard was injured.
Rise in terrorism
The development also comes as terrorism has been once again rearing its head in Pakistan, especially in KP and Balochistan. Pakistan has seen a rise in terrorist attacks across the country, believed to have been planned and directed by TTP leaders based in Afghanistan.
The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban, executed more than 100 attacks last year, most of which happened after August when the group’s peace talks with the Pakistan government began to falter. The ceasefire was formally ended last year on Nov 28 by the TTP.
According to statistics released by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), January 2023 remained one of the deadliest months since July 2018, as 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.
Most recently, more than 80 people — mostly cops — lost their lives during a suicide attack at a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines. Officials have blamed an affiliate of TTP for the blast.
Earlier this month, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Faisal Karim Kundi said the government will send delegations to Tehran and Kabul to “ask them to ensure that their soil is not used by terrorists against Pakistan”.
Meanwhile, the ISKP has claimed many attacks in Afghanistan and has opposed the Taliban since its 2015 establishment, viewing the Taliban’s Afghanistan-focused nationalist political project as counter to the Islamic State’s universalist vision of a global caliphate.