ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on Pakistan to eradicate militant sanctuaries at “detailed” talks Saturday about a peace process with the Taliban that inaugurated a joint peace commission.
Karzai and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani led the first meeting of a joint commission for reconciliation and peace, pledging that the body would meet again in October and a sub-committee in 20 days to a month.
In another effort to improve ties, a much delayed transit trade agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was signed last year, is due to come into effect on Sunday, Islamabad said.
The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan is now into a 10th year with violence at record levels. Pakistan is also fighting a home-grown Taliban insurgency in its northwest and there are near daily militant bomb attacks.
“The facts are so bare and the wound is so clear and hurting that it requires both of us to work diligently and extremely aggressively and effectively to curb terrorism and radicalism in the region,” Karzai said.
Asked about swarms of militants attacking Pakistani troops close to the Afghan border, Karzai said the attacks were “all the more reason for us to work harder to remove radicals from both countries and to remove sanctuaries”.
Gilani insisted that Pakistan wanted a stable, peaceful, prosperous, independent and sovereign Afghanistan, saying that Islamabad was ready to provide “whatever support they want” in the Afghan-led peace process.
“We have discussed in detail the peace process, with all stakeholders and certainly what happened in our capacity is a readiness,” said Gilani.
But when asked if the Haqqanis or Pakistan's arrest last year of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said to be the Taliban second-in-command, could be part of the reconciliation process neither leader went into detail.
The Taliban have rejected peace overtures in public, although some experts believe the death of bin Laden, whom Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar refused to surrender after the September 11, 2001 attacks, could be a spur.
Pakistan was a main ally of the Taliban until it joined the US-led “war on terror” following the attacks on New York and Washington and subsequently started fighting a home-grown Taliban insurgency along the Afghan border.
But its intelligence services are thought to maintain links to Afghan insurgents with strongholds on its territory, namely the Haqqani network, one of the staunchest US enemies in Afghanistan, and Afghan Taliban leaders.
Fighting between the Taliban and US-led Nato troops in Afghanistan has become deadlier each year since the 2001 invasion.
The 130,000 international troops today in the country are due to start limited withdrawals from July with the Afghan police and army scheduled to take control of security gradually before the end of 2014.
In Pakistan, more than 4,400 people have been killed in attacks blamed on Taliban and other extremist networks based in the tribal belt since 2007.