In a blow to an already fragile relationship between the two neighbours, Afghanistan on Sunday decided to withdraw its ambassador and senior diplomats from Pakistan, a move that Islamabad termed as "unfortunate and regrettable".
The decision by Kabul to recall its ambassador in Islamabad and other diplomats came in reaction to the reported abduction of the daughter of the envoy on Friday.
Selsela Alikhil, the daughter of Najibullah Alikhil, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, was allegedly kidnapped and held for several hours by unknown assailants who left her with injuries and rope marks.
Pakistan authorities are currently investigating the reported abduction with Prime Minister Imran Khan issuing special directions to the interior minister for finding and punishing the culprits.
“The Afghan government recalled the ambassador and senior diplomats to Kabul until the complete elimination of the security threats, including the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators,” the Afghan foreign ministry said.
But Pakistan expressed disappointment over the Afghan government's move. "The decision by the Government of Afghanistan to recall its ambassador and senior diplomats from Pakistan is unfortunate and regrettable," read an official statement issued by the foreign office.
"The reported abduction and assault of the ambassador's daughter in Islamabad is being investigated and followed up at the highest level on the instructions of the prime minister.
“The security of the ambassador, his family and personnel of the embassy and consulates of Afghanistan in Pakistan has been further beefed up,” said the statement.
It said the foreign secretary also met the ambassador of Afghanistan, highlighted all the steps taken by the government in this context, and re-assured him of full cooperation.
"We hope that the Government of Afghanistan will reconsider its decision," the statement said.
The Afghan government said it would send a security team to Islamabad for assessing the situation before sending the envoy and other diplomats to Islamabad. The latest diplomatic hiccup happened at a time when the relationship between the two neighbours is already facing multiple challenges.
The recent meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani did not go well either as the two sides failed to reduce the trust deficit. Pakistani plans to hold an Afghan Peace Conference also suffered a setback when Afghan government refused to send its delegation.
With the latest row over the reported kidnapping of Ambassador’s daughter, the peace conference may not take place in Islamabad. Pakistan has been a key player in the Afghan endgame as it has facilitated and brokered Doha deal and intra-Afghan talks.
However, with the Afghan Taliban making rapid gains since the US and Nato started withdrawing their troops, Pakistan is coming under increased pressure to do more. Both the civil and military leadership insisted that Pakistan is not a guarantor of peace in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, Pakistan said it will continue to make efforts seeking peace in the neighbouring country.
Abduction case to be solved soon
The country’s top security czar has said police have registered a case against the unknown people who on Saturday allegedly attempted to kidnap the daughter of Afghanistan’s envoy to Pakistan and claimed that the case will be resolved within 72 hours.
“The police are investigating the case on top priority in view of the order of Prime Minister Imran Khan. In the next 72 hours, we will [God willing] solve the case," Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid said on Sunday while addressing a press conference in Islamabad.
"We will present the entire, true picture in front of the world," he added.
According to Rashid, Islamabad’s Kohsar Police Station registered the first information report (FIR) about the alleged kidnapping incident at 2:00 am in the morning on the basis of a written statement of Selsela Alikhil, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Najibullah Alikhil.
“The police have registered the FIR under sections 365, 354, 34, and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code,” Rashid said. He said the closed circuit television (CCTV) footage obtained by the police showed that the girl left her home on foot and arrived at a market from where she hired two taxis one after the other.
“The girl hired a taxi to Khadda market [situated at Sector G-7] and from there hired another taxi for a mall in Rawalpindi. The police are investigating how the girl reached Daman-e-Koh [in Islamabad] from Rawalpindi. They have interviewed the third taxi driver as well,” he said
After the alleged assault, the minister said, the ambassador’s daughter first went to the Ali Medical Centre and then to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital.
“The authorities will probe how the ambassador's daughter arrived from Rawalpindi to Daman-e-Koh and hopefully more missing links of the case could be put together to provide a clear picture.
"We are also in touch with the Afghan embassy and they have been cooperative in this regard."
The minister said Pakistan's importance in the region has increased manifold due to PM Khan's popular foreign policy moves. "After PM Khan's 'absolutely not' stance received immense popularity both in Pakistan and abroad, India has fully unleashed its malicious propaganda against Pakistan," he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on June 19 categorically said that Pakistan would "absolutely not" allow any bases and use of its territory for any sort of action inside Afghanistan.
"Absolutely Not. There is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not," the prime minister had told "Axios on HBO" in an interview.
In May, the US Centcom chief had said in a Pentagon briefing that al Qaeda, Islamic State and other terrorist groups could regroup in Afghanistan post US-exit and that he would like to keep a small “quick response force (QRF)” on-call in the region to neutralise any threat.
This statement had set off speculations that the US could be looking to keep the “QRF” in a military base in one of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.
The minister said India is misleading people about this kidnaping case and playing the role of an "influence agent" against Pakistan. Regarding investigation into the Dasu Bus incident, the minister said a joint investigation team of experts from China and Pakistan is working on it.
Thirteen people, including nine Chinese, two personnel of the Frontier Constabulary and two locals, were killed and 28 others sustained injuries when a bus carrying them to an under-construction tunnel site of Dasu hydropower project fell into a ravine in Upper Kohistan after an explosion on July 15.
“Fifteen people from China have joined our teams. China has appreciated Pakistan for its investigation and cooperation in the Dasu blast incident. Chinese have conveyed to Pakistan that both countries should be on the same page,” he said.
Rashid debunked the rumors of the Dasu Dam site being closed and said that work at the hydropower plant has resumed.
Responding to a question, the minister stressed the need for a joint venture of Islamabad and Rawalpindi police for effective policing measures in the city. “The Ministry for Interior has sought approval for 1,500 cameras under the safe city project to enhance security of the city,” he said. (WITH INPUT FROM APP)
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