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Pakistan PM Imran Khan vows to ‘do everything’ to reduce violence in Afghanistan during his first Kabul visit

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (right) and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stand before a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on November 19.   | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 19 met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his maiden visit to Kabul and vowed to “do everything” to reduce violence in Afghanistan as the two leaders explored ways to deepen the bilateral ties and discussed the reconciliation process, amidst an uptick in violence that could jeopardise the peace push in the war-torn country.

Also read: As peace talks continue, Afghans fear return of Taliban

President Ghani who received Mr. Khan upon his arrival at ARG Presidential Palace, situated in the heart of Kabul, called his visit “historic” and said it was an “important message to help end violence".

On his part, Mr. Khan assured Mr. Ghani that his government would do “everything possible” to help reduce violence in Afghanistan and bring a durable peace.

“The idea of visiting at a time when violence is increasing [in Afghanistan] is to assure you, President Ghani, that the people and the government of Pakistan have only one concern: peace in Afghanistan,” Mr. Khan said while addressing a joint press conference with the Afghan leader after their talks on issues ranging from bilateral ties to the Afghan peace and regional situation.

Also read: Another Afghan peace push and a role for India

Mr. Khan said Pakistan played a role in the peace deal signed between the Taliban and the U.S. side and later on starting the intra-Afghan dialogue. He regretted that despite such efforts violence was increasing in Afghanistan and assured that Pakistan was ready to help if it was possible.

“If you feel there is somewhere Pakistan can help [in reduction of violence], please let us know. We assure you that we will do everything and whatever is within our reach,” he said.

Mr. Khan said that Pakistan’s tribal areas were devastated by the violence in the past and it was one of the reasons to help Afghanistan tackle violence. “The only way to help people on both sides of the border is by peace, trade and connectivity,” he said.

He said peace and connectivity was the best way to ensure prosperity of Pakistan, Afghanistan and also the entire region.

“Now again to build trust, we will help the Afghan government to meet their expectations,” Mr. Khan said as he thanked Mr. Ghani for extending an invitation to visit Afghanistan.

Mr. Ghani said that enduring peace within the framework of joint cooperation was important to lead towards a comprehensive ceasefire. “All of us need to understand that violence is not an answer, but an inclusive politics,” he said.

He also said that he would visit Pakistan in near future.

Officials said the two leaders discussed ways to further deepen the bilateral ties, the Afghan peace process and regional economic development and connectivity. They agreed to strengthen bilateral relations as the people of the two countries were linked through immutable bonds of history, faith, culture, kinship, values and traditions.

Mr. Khan expressed confidence that his visit would help foster a stronger and multi-faceted relationship between the two brotherly countries.

Earlier, Mr. Khan was received by Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Afghan President’s Special Representative for Pakistan Mohammad Umer Daudzai upon his arrival at Kabul airport on his maiden trip to Afghanistan since assuming office in 2018.

Mr. Khan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood and Special Representative for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq.

His visit is the highest-profile trip by a Pakistani official to Kabul since peace talks began between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha.

It comes days after the Pentagon announced it would reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. However, neither of the leaders addressed the issue of the U.S. troops withdrawal from Afghanistan during their joint press conference.

The announcement came as there has been an uptick in violence, with the Taliban continuing to carry out attacks targeting government leaders, security forces, and civilians.

Mr. Khan’s visit is being billed as a symbol of increasing confidence between the two countries, triggered by Pakistan’s role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table, after years of acrimony between Islamabad and Kabul. President Mr. Ghani last visited Pakistan in June 2019.

The two leaders had a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 14th Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Mecca in May 2019. Mr. Khan had a telephonic conversation with Mr. Ghani in September 2020.

There were other important visits recently from Afghanistan to Pakistan including one by the Chairman High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah in September.

During his visit, Dr. Abdullah had said that Pakistan and Afghanistan should shun the suspicion and go beyond the usual “stale rhetoric” and “shadowy conspiracy theories” that have held them back.

Pakistan has come under international criticism for its support for some militant groups and opposition to others. While Pakistan’s military and politicians say that policy has been relegated to the past, Islamabad’s neighbours remain suspicious.

Afghanistan and the U.S. have in the past blamed Pakistan for providing safe havens to elements of the terror network, a charge Islamabad denies.

In its 26th report, the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIS, al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities earlier this year said that an estimated 6,000-6,500 Pakistani terrorists are in Afghanistan, most of them with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, posing a threat to both the countries.

 

 

 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on his first official visit to Kabul on Thursday, focussing on the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban as well as on building trust and strengthening relations between the two often acrimonious neighbours.

Mr. Ghani called Mr. Khan’s visit “historic” while the Pakistani Prime Minister assured the Afghan leader that his government would do “everything possible” to help reduce violence in the war-torn country.

 

The visit comes at a crucial time for Afghanistan as Kabul government negotiators and the Taliban are holding U.S.-brokered negotiations in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to chart a course for a post-war Afghanistan.

“You come with a series of very important messages ... but fundamental to this is that violence is not an answer, a comprehensive political settlement for an enduring peace within the framework of our values, our Constitution in the Islamic Republic is the way to the future,” Mr. Ghani told Mr. Khan at the presidential palace.

Mr. Khan acknowledged Pakistan had played a key role in getting the Taliban to the negotiating table and that Islamabad remains concerned that “despite the talks in Qatar, the level of violence is rising.”

“Whatever is possible, we will do to help reduce the violence,” and help move the Afghan-Taliban talks toward a cease-fire, Mr. Khan said. “The whole objective of this visit is to build trust, to communicate more. ... We will be helping you.”

Neither of the leaders addressed this week’s announcement from Washington of an accelerated U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has rattled both sides in the Afghan conflict. There are fears of worsening violence and regional chaos, which some say could embolden the local Islamic State group’s affiliate to regroup and perhaps even try to build another “caliphate.”

Under an earlier deal between the U.S. and the Taliban that outlined a gradual pullout, the remaining U.S. forces were to leave Afghanistan by next April. The Pentagon now says some 2,500 troops will leave by January, just days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, leaving another 2,000 or so U.S. forces in place.

Pakistan has been applauded by Washington and Kabul for its role in getting the Taliban to the peace table, first in direct talks with the United States, which resulted in an agreement that led to the so-called intra-Afghan negotiations now under way in Doha.

Mr. Khan’s visit followed that of Afghanistan’s chief peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah who visited Pakistan in September as the uneasy neighbours turned a corner from a relationship marked by suspicion and downright hostility toward a partnership for peace in the region.

While in Islamabad, Mr. Abdullah urged Pakistan’s powerful military to use its influence to press the Taliban to reduce attacks and the level of violence. The insurgents, who hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida until their regime was toppled by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, now have control over half of Afghanistan.

Also, Pakistan is seen by many in Afghanistan as wanting to keep the Taliban as possible leverage against influence in Afghanistan by its long-time enemy India, which has been critical of any post-war government in Afghanistan that would include the Taliban.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:06:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistans-pm-imran-khan-in-historic-first-visit-to-afghanistan/article33133738.ece

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