Talk about bad timing. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s first trip to Kabul since taking office last year took a turn for the worse on Wednesday after the visit was primarily eclipsed by a leaked Nato report accusing Pakistan of secretly aiding Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
The untimely one-day visit, which was aimed at thawing frosty ties between the two neighbours, was for the most part overshadowed by Khar’s denials of the contents of the Nato report.
“We have no hidden agenda in Afghanistan,” Khar told reporters after meeting President Hamid Karzai, adding that “these claims have been made many, many times.”
The minister went on to add that the report should be “disregarded as potential strategic leak”, characterising the document as “old wine in an even older bottle”.
“We consider any threat to Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty as a threat to Pakistan’s existence.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look forward to a relationship based on trust,” she added.
While Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul told the same news conference: “Pakistan plays a key role in Afghan peace process. I hope Ms Rabbani’s visit is the beginning of a good relationship between our two countries.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office also rejected and hit out angrily at the leaked report on Wednesday, calling the report “frivolous” and “not worth commenting on”.
“This is frivolous, to put it mildly. We are committed to non-interference in Afghanistan and expect all other states to strictly adhere to this principle,” foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP.
“We are also committed to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process,” Basit said.
“Pakistan has suffered enormously because of the long conflict in Afghanistan. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our own interest and we are very much cognizant of this,” he added.
Efforts to normalise the already fragile alliance between Pakistan and the United States may suffer at the hands of the leaked Nato report, senior military officials believe.
A senior military official described the leak as ‘deliberate’, warning that it might further deteriorate Islamabad’s cooperation with Washington.
In recent weeks the two sides have made attempts to move beyond the fallout of Nato strikes and there were indications that Pakistan might resume Nato supplies which have been blocked for over two months now.
The latest US military findings, though, may now delay the impending rapprochement between the disenchanted but crucial allies to Afghanistan’s endgame.
“It goes without saying that the leak will certainly have a negative impact on efforts to defuse tensions with the US,” said the military official, who requested anonymity.
The official went on to say that the accusation was part of a ‘deliberate campaign against Pakistan’s security establishment.’
(Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.