Islamabad girds up for ‘tough talk’ with Kabul

Published: January 23, 2017
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. PHOTO: REUTERS

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing for ‘tough talk’ with Afghanistan in coming weeks when army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will travel to Kabul at the invitation of President Ashraf Ghani.

Although Gen Qamar has in principle accepted Ghani’s invitation, he is waiting for the ‘appropriate time’ to visit Afghanistan in a bid to mend fractured ties with the neighbouring country.

Rejoinder from Islamabad: Foreign Office deplores Kabul’s ‘rhetoric’

A senior security official said the army chief would likely visit Kabul after President Donald Trump’s administration announces its policy on the Afghan situation. But whenever the army chief would travel to Kabul, he plans to deliver a ‘clear message’ to the Afghan leadership: “Stop blaming Pakistan for your own failings”.

Gen Qamar is also expected to inform the Afghan leadership in categorical terms that Pakistan is not patronising any group or providing them sanctuaries, according to the official familiar with the development. In fact, he would present ‘compelling evidence’ of how some elements within the Afghan government are supporting terrorist groups that are launching attacks in Pakistan.

The official said the army chief, however, would renew Pakistan’s commitment to supporting efforts seeking a political end to chronic instability in Afghanistan.

Since taking over the army’s command, Gen Qamar has been attempting to reach out to Afghanistan. He spoke twice in less than two weeks to President Ghani — first on new year’s eve and then after a series of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. He not only condemned the terrorist incidents but also offered Pakistan’s assistance in dealing with the common challenge.

At the same time, the army chief requested the Afghan president to stop the blame game because, according to him, such an approach would not serve the purpose of either country.

However, his efforts did not succeed as the Afghan president stuck to its earlier allegations and insisted his country now wanted ‘serious talks’ with Pakistan on the future of ties between the two countries.

A Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan also wanted ‘serious discussions’ with Afghanistan.

However, the official, who requested not be named because he was not authorised to speak to media, made it clear that Pakistan’s intention for serious and meaningful discussions was meant to sort out differences between the two countries.

At his news briefing last Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan, as the most sincere friend and well-wisher of the Afghan people, had contributed to the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, whenever requested.

“Pakistan has the highest stakes in peace and stability in Afghanistan. No country gets affected more than Pakistan due to instability in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan is, therefore, beyond any doubt,” Zakaria said while rejecting the Afghan allegations.

Breaking the ice, Islamabad reaches out to Kabul

But before making the next move, Pakistan hopes the new US administration would take a more ‘realistic view’ of Afghanistan and form a policy accordingly.

It is not clear yet how different Trump’s policy would be than that of his predecessor, but Pakistani policymakers feel the change in Washington would certainly offer Islamabad an opportunity to address some of the misconceptions.

Under former US president Barack Obama, the US and Afghanistan routinely blamed Pakistan for the current mess in the war-torn country. The Kabul administration believes Pakistan is still providing ‘safe havens’ to terrorists, who have been orchestrating attacks against Afghanistan. Pakistan has strongly rebutted these charges and pointed towards the growing instability within Afghanistan as the main reason for the regrouping of all kinds of militant outfits.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2017.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Omar Sadiq
    Jan 23, 2017 - 9:56AM

    Pakistan needs to just close their borders with Afghanistan and send their 3,000,000 people back; that in itself will be enough for Afghanistan to stay in its place. Let India handle these 3 million people and the troubles which emanate with it.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jan 23, 2017 - 10:01AM

    Change of policy is needed from Pakistan, this bogus reaching out not accompanied by promised action.Recommend

  • afgland
    Jan 23, 2017 - 10:53AM

    Lol noboby invited ur coas to kabul he wished to travel and afghan government accepted.Recommend

  • Abdul Awwal
    Jan 23, 2017 - 11:27AM

    How many “compelling” evidence has been shared with Pakistan till date and what has Pakistan done about it ?Recommend

  • Trollslayer
    Jan 23, 2017 - 11:33AM

    Same old song and dance routine without any credible and concrete action from either side has been the norm, which needs to change. Tit for tat blame game and harboring of proxies will persist.

    Trump’s Afghan policy will uphold and maintain the status quo, which is for the Taliban to accept the constitution and the political dispensation of the last 15 years.Recommend

  • Hakim Afghani
    Jan 23, 2017 - 3:34PM

    Same old blah blah blah story… Nothing new.
    I think Pakistani government is out of ideas how to lie now. It’s better not to come to Kabul, you won’t get anything and you won’t fix anything either. Better stay in your Islamabad and enjoy Isolation.Recommend

  • Zulfiqar
    Jan 23, 2017 - 4:47PM

    Pakistani do not need Afghani migrants, Pak Govt. should send back 3 Million Afghanis to Afghanistan or India. Recommend

  • mohammed
    Jan 23, 2017 - 4:56PM

    first of all he was not invited , he invited himself by calling Ghani for the new year, no one in Afghanistan celebrate new year, Afghanistan new year is 21 march it is some one calls nawaz sharif to whish him Chinese new year. Recommend

    Jan 23, 2017 - 5:50PM

    afgland(Indian)You created much mess in my country though Afghanistan and now by changing your name in comments you will not be an Afghani; and Afghanistan deserve India and US who destroyed it by indirectly supporting terrorism.Recommend

  • powayman
    Jan 23, 2017 - 9:04PM

    If you don’t have anything new to say then save the money and stay home. Recommend

  • Khan
    Jan 23, 2017 - 10:46PM

    @Hakim Afghani:
    Oh Hakim, keep reading off your script that Pakistan is isolated. Modi spent a lot of time making up that line, so as a typical unthinking Afghan, you should keep believing it in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.Recommend

  • Trollslayer
    Jan 24, 2017 - 1:57PM

    @ Khan
    Afghans read what finds currency in their narrative and you do the same. Stop dragging India into every conversation, Afghans don’t discuss China’s influence on Pakistan’s affairs. Recommend

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