Pakistan will continue supporting efforts for a peaceful end to the 12-year-old conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan despite the reluctance of President Hamid Karzai’s administration to mend frayed relations with Islamabad.
The decision was taken at a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Tuesday. The meeting came two days after the prime minister’s foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz toured Kabul in a move designed to mend fences with an increasingly sceptical neighbour.
Aziz formally invited Karzai to visit Islamabad. The Afghan leader “in principle accepted the invitation” but set some preconditions for his trip. Karzai’s office said he could tour Pakistan only when “serious and effective struggle against terrorism and the peace process are on top of the agenda”.
Sources familiar with Tuesday’s meeting told The Express Tribune that Gen Kayani and Premier Nawaz discussed the apparent impasse in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The premier briefed Kayani on the outcome of Aziz’s trip.
According to sources, Aziz’s meetings with President Karzai and senior officials of his administration remained inconclusive as the Afghan leadership accused Pakistan’s security establishment of impeding the Afghan peace process.
A senior foreign ministry official disclosed that given Karzai’s unrelenting attitude it appeared that it would take some time to put the bilateral engagements back on track.
Nawaz and Kayani also discussed the agenda for the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry is expected to travel to Islamabad later this week, although his itinerary has not been made public apparently due to security reasons. Officials said apart from the regional situation, Pakistani officials would take up several issues to improve bilateral relations with the United States.
They added that Islamabad has been pushing for reviving the ‘strategic dialogue’ with the US which remains suspended since early 2011 due to the roller-coaster ties between the two countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2013.