Prime Minister Imran Khan and key federal ministers on Wednesday visited the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to receive a briefing on national security as well as on the current Afghan situation.
Unlike in the past, no footage or still image was released by the PM Office this time, suggesting a change of approach. This is believed to be part of efforts by the new ISI director general to stay away from publicity, something that his predecessor was accustomed to. An official handout released by the PM Office read that army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also attended the briefing. DG ISI Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum welcomed the dignitaries.
“A comprehensive briefing followed by discussion on national security and regional dynamics with focus on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan was held,” the statement read. The prime minister appreciated the efforts of the ISI for national security, stability and prosperity and expressed satisfaction over the professional preparedness to safeguard the country’s national Interest.
Although no further details were provided, the reference to Afghanistan’s current situation means the civil-military leadership must have discussed the fencing issue as well as the looming threat posed by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Both these issues could potentially mar a close relationship between Pakistan and the interim Afghan government. In recent weeks, there have been certain instances where Taliban soldiers tried to remove a portion of the fencing Pakistan had built to regulate the movement of people, trade and ensure security.
وزیر اعظم جناب عمران خان کا آئی ایس آئی سیکریٹریٹ کا دورہ pic.twitter.com/F1JeObC7rx— Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) January 12, 2022
The issue was taken up with the Afghan Taliban leadership but Pakistan opted to downplay those incidents as “localised problem.” At a recent news conference, DG Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar had made it clear that the fencing would be completed as per planned as the “blood of Pakistani martyrs” was involved in this key initiative. However, Pakistan has been trying to deal with the issue cautiously since it does not want to get bogged down on a problem which it feels can be sorted out through mutual understanding.
Despite Pakistan’s efforts to downplay the controversy, the Afghan side is not reciprocating. The Afghan Taliban army chief asked Pakistan not to build the fence along the border, contradicting Islamabad’s interpretation that the problem was at the local level. Another issue that could make the two sides uneasy was the TTP.
After initial optimism of a possible peace deal when the TTP announced a month-long ceasefire, the situation is back to square one. The ceasefire has ended and talks are on hold.
The DG ISPR had confirmed that Pakistan was conducting operations against the TTP on a daily basis and the fight against what he described “violate non-state actors” would continue.
The ceasefire and talks were earlier brokered by the Afghan Taliban. The in-charge of the Afghan diplomatic mission in Islamabad on Tuesday told Arab News that the interim Taliban government was trying to convince both Pakistan and the TTP to return to the negotiating table. However, Pakistan does not seem keen on reviving the peace process with the banned TTP.
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