FM Jilani reaffirms commitment to ‘mutually beneficial ties’ with Afghanistan

Published January 3, 2024
Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani in a meeting with Kandahar governor and senior Afghan Taliban official Mullah Shirin Akhund on Wednesday. — Jalil Abbas Jilani X
Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani in a meeting with Kandahar governor and senior Afghan Taliban official Mullah Shirin Akhund on Wednesday. — Jalil Abbas Jilani X

In a meeting with senior Afghan Taliban official Mullah Shirin Akhund on Wednesday, interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to “continued engagement and mutually beneficial ties with Afghanistan”.

In a post on social media platform X, FM Jilani said he had a “productive meeting” with Akhund, who is the governor of Kandahar and the strategic intelligence deputy of the Afghan defence ministry.

“Also stressed imperatives of addressing all issues to harness full potential for trade and connectivity,” he said.

The Foreign Office (FO) said the two exchanged views on key issues of mutual concern, including peace and security, as well as people-to-people contacts.

“The visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan for the generous support extended to millions of Afghans for over four decades and agreed to continue high-level engagement and dialogue to further strengthen bilateral relations,” the FO said.

It added their meeting came after the 6th session of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Coordination Committee (JCC).

“In the JCC meeting, the two sides discussed coordination mechanisms to facilitate cross border movement with a view to promoting people-to-people contacts.”

Earlier in the day, the Afghan embassy said that the sixth meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan JCC would take place in Islamabad today. It said that Akhund would be leading the Afghan delegation.

“During this meeting, as a follow-up to previous sessions, participants will engage in discussions and make essential decisions concerning the resolution of potential conflicts along the Durand Line and the establishment of essential facilities for people on both sides,” it had said.

Akhund, a key figure in the Afghan Taliban, has played various roles in the group’s military and political spheres. His close ties to the senior leadership and involvement in significant Taliban activities make him a prominent and influential member of the Afghan rulers’ leadership structure.

He has previously been engaging with Pakistan and is known to have liaised with the TTP on behalf of the Taliban administration.

Today’s meeting between Jilani and Akhund comes at a time when relations between the two countries have suffered due to a spike in terrorist attacks, mostly claimed by the outlawed militant Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group.

Islamabad has stated that the TTP and other groups use Afghan soil against Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban have denied the charge and have stated they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil to be used against the neighbour. But authorities remain unconvinced and have demanded action against the TTP, its sanctuaries and the handover of its leaders.

In November, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar said there was a 60 per cent increase in terrorism and a 500pc spike in suicide bombings since the Afghan Taliban came to power in August 2021.

Meanwhile, a report issued on Wednesday by Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies said that over 82pc of terrorism-related deaths in 2023 resulted from attacks perpetrated by three major groups, including the TTP and its subsidiaries such as the Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan, Islamic State of Khorasan and the Balochistan Liberation Army.

In its Pakistan Security Report for 2023, the think tank said the three groups carried out over 78pc of the total terrorist attacks recorded in the country in the year under review.

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