Barbs fly at Kabul meet: •Aziz agrees to set up jirga commission •Karzai complains about aid to Taliban
KABUL, Jan 4: Negotiations between Islamabad and Kabul turned out to be unproductive when Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that the help resurgent Taliban militants received on the Pakistani side of the border soured relations between the estranged neighbours.
In what was seen by many as a disagreeable departure from diplomatic norms, President Karzai, beside himself with anger, told Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at a joint press conference that top-level visits bore little fruit if Afghanistan remained bedevilled by what he described as cross-border terrorism.
“If our children continue to be killed, our teachers continue to get killed, and students get discouraged, there would be no use of such high-profile visits by the leaders,” he said.
Analysts recalled that Mr Karzai, believed to be under tremendous pressure from dissenting members of his cabinet, started his rhetorical barrage against Pakistan in a tearful speech last month when he said terrorists from Pakistan were killing Afghan children. He ratcheted up his criticism two days later and directly charged Islamabad with supporting the Taliban. He again accused Pakistan of trying to enslave the Afghan people.
“And that, unfortunately, the gap in ties is increasing between Afghanistan and Pakistan...It is with a lot of regret that relations face a lack of trust,” President Karzai said at the joint press conference.
Having received such a wintry welcome in the windswept capital of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who seemed to exercise considerable restraint, said Islamabad had increased financial aid to the strife-torn country by $50 million to $300 million. He said the two sides, which had a tense round of talks for three hours, agreed to start the stalled repatriation process of three million Afghan refugees.
Underling the need for honest soul-searching, he said: “Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have their own internal problems for which no other country can be blamed. Afghan authorities should find out why the insurgency grew to such an extent that it is now threatening the Karzai government.”
President Karzai poured scorn on Pakistan’s proposal of fencing and mining sections of the 2,640-kilometre-long border between the two countries, saying that they would unfairly split ethnic Pashtun communities that straddled both sides of the frontier.
“Our people are convinced that mining or fencing of borders will only divide their families living across the borders and will in no way prevent terrorism or end the root cause of terrorism which needs to be addressed through other measures,” he said.
Sticking to his guns, Prime Minister Aziz said mining of selected parts of the border, fencing and enhanced border surveillance were some options Pakistan had been weighing for some time. He assured the Afghan president that while implementing these measures, Islamabad would ensure that normal crossing of borders was not disrupted and traditional routes were not disturbed.
He announced the establishment of a commission to look at plans to call a tribal council or a jirga in the ethnic Pashtun areas along the border.
President Karzai mooted the idea at talks late last year with US President George W. Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who agreed to the plan which will see a similar meeting on the Afghan side of the border.
President Karzai said on Thursday the jirgas would help find out “who is blowing (up) bombs in Afghanistan, who is burning Afghan schools.”