Talks With Kabul On Terror Concerns Underway

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Pakistan and Afghanistan have started negotiating a mechanism for addressing each other’s concerns over terrorism and can strike a deal next week.

This was disclosed by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz at a media briefing on the upcoming Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit.

“Both sides have said that terrorism is a common enemy and both sides agree that there should be cooperation for dealing with this issue. We are holding discussions for a joint mechanism,” he said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of harbouring terrorist sanctuaries, and the issue once again came into limelight after the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, which claimed over 100 lives. Pakistan reacted angrily and closed border crossings with Afghanistan, demanded hand­over of 76 wanted terrorists and shelled terrorist hideouts on the Afghan side of the border.

Afghanistan responded by demanding handover of 85 leaders of Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups and action against 32 alleged terrorist training centres, besides issuing a warning that continued violence would push it to seek international sanctions against “terrorist groups and their supporters”.

Behind this public sparring, the two sides, acknowledging the need for cooperating on each other’s concerns, quietly started working on a proposal, which envisages engagement at multiple levels — military, intelligence, and political.

“Pakistan has sent its proposals to Afghanistan,” the adviser disclosed hours before he was to hold a telephonic conversation with Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar.

Last week Afghan presidency had asked Pakistan to implement an agreement on countering terrorism reached during last year’s quadrilateral talks also involving the US and China. “The mechanism devised in the quadrilateral meeting had provided a comprehensive document for grappling with terrorism and at this moment the urgency is being felt more than ever that Pak­istan should implement contents of that document,” it said, emphasising that Pakis­tan should act against Taliban and Haqqani sanctuaries on its soil.

Mr Aziz expressed the hope that an agreement could be formalised during a bilateral meeting with Afghanistan on the sidelines of the ECO summit. “Progress is expected,” he said.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani has confirmed his participation in the ECO summit, but Kabul has been holding back an announcement on either President Ashraf Ghani or Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s visit to Islamabad for attending the summit because of heightened tensions between the two countries over sanctuaries.

“We want Afghanistan to participate at higher level bec­ause other countries are taking part at higher level,” Mr Aziz told a questioner. “Afghanistan is still deliberating over its participation. Other seven countries have confirmed their participation at head of state/government level.”

The adviser defended closure of border crossings with Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks and said they would be opened soon.

“The over-riding consideration was security. It (the closure) was a temporary measure. We did not want to cause inconvenience to Afghan people,” he said.

Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said in a statement that Pakistan had agreed to partial relaxation for border crossing for the sick and those stranded on the other side. He said the crossings could be reopened in a few days, but warned his countrymen against travelling to Pakistan after resumption of cross-border traffic.

Courtesy: Dawn News

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