ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Wednesday rejected the ‘documentary evidence’ shared by Afghanistan regarding the recent spate of attacks by the Taliban in the war-torn country but pledged to cooperate with Kabul to eliminate terrorism, official sources said.

Earlier in the day, Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and National Directorate of Security Chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai visited Pakistan, carrying a message from President Dr Ashraf Ghani for Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The Afghan team held a meeting with PM Abbasi to discuss the growing tension. The meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Inter-Services Intelligence Chief Lt Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, Chief of General Staff General Bilal Akbar, Afghan Envoy to Pakistan Dr Omar Zakhilwal and other officials.

Soon as the Afghan delegation left Pakistan, the federal cabinet gave a 60-day extension in the Proof of Registration Cards for Afghan Refugees. The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi decided that the PoR will be valid until the end of March.

The validity of legal refugee status for many Afghan refugees expired on January 31. Pakistan has extended the validity of PoR for the refugees at least six times in the past. The last time, the extension was granted only for a month. This was the shortest extension ever granted.

Senior government officials said Pakistan tried to convince the Afghan delegation that their allegations were ‘mere misunderstanding’ which could be removed through talks.

“We have seen their evidence which is only a bunch of allegations. We will still investigate and help them (Afghanistan),” one official told The Nation. 

Another official said the talks will continue and Pakistan was optimistic the dialogue process will remove the misunderstandings. “There has been a consensus on better intelligence-sharing. They (the Afghan delegation) spoke about taking up the (terrorism) issue in the United Nations (accusing Pakistan-based militants of terror attacks in Afghanistan),” he added. 

After the meeting, Afghan Deputy Head of Mission in Islamabad Zardasht Shams said the visiting delegation had a detailed meeting with PM Abbasi and senior officials.

The meeting came hours after Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan denied reports that President Ashraf Ghani refused to take a condolence phone call from Prime Minister Abbasi after the Kabul terror attack.

“Not true – no phone call has taken place. Following recent horrific terrorist attacks in Kabul PM Abassi conveyed a message to President Ghani to which it was responded to by high powered delegation by the President to meet the PM today (January 31),” he tweeted.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said the high-level delegation representing the Afghan government had arrived in Islamabad to discuss “cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

He said the delegation also carried a message from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for the Pakistani leadership

This week, the foreign ministry said that 27 individuals suspected of belonging to Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan and the Haqqani Network were handed over to Afghanistan in November 2017.

Dr Faisal said Pakistan continued to push any suspected TTA and HN elements to prevent them from using “our soil for any terrorist activity in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan, he said, had sacrificed 75,000 civilians and 6,000 soldiers to the scourge of terrorism. “We have one of the highest officer-to-soldier casualty rate globally and suffered economic losses worth $123 billion.

However, Ambassador Zakhilwal said he was ‘astonished’ to see the reports. He said if this indeed happened it would be a huge step forward in Pakistan and Afghanistan mutual bilateral relations.

Afghan delegation’s visit came amid rising tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan was furious after an attack on a luxury hotel and a car bomb in the capital Kabul that killed more than 120 people. Afghanistan blamed Pakistan-based militants for carrying out the attack.

Meanwhile, a  delegation from Islamabad will visit Afghanistan on February 3. “The delegation, led by the foreign secretary (Tehmina Janjua), will hold constructive and meaningful discussions with Afghanistan on all issues including counter-terrorism, peace and reconciliation and repatriation of refugees,” an official statement said.

The Pakistani delegation will participate in the first meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity.

The delegation, the statement said will hold “constructive and meaningful discussions with Afghanistan on all issues including Counter-Terrorism, Peace and Reconciliation and Repatriation of Refugees.”

It added Pakistan wanted to engage with Afghanistan at official and State to State level rather than conducting diplomacy through the media.

“For this very reason, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had wanted to speak with the President of Afghanistan, and we accepted urgent request of the Afghan government to receive Minister of Interior Affairs Wais Ahmad Barmak and NDS Chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai at Islamabad, carrying a message from President of Afghanistan,” it said.

 

 

Islamabad pledges security cooperation to Kabul