Volte-face: Kabul hits out at Islamabad over uptick in violence

Published: August 11, 2015
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A file photo of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. PHOTO: REUTERS

A file photo of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL: 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan on Monday of sending ‘messages of war’ and harbouring bombmaking camps, after a wave of devastating blasts in Kabul killed at least 56 people. Ghani’s outburst came a day after he spoke to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the telephone to discuss the possibility of resumption of peace process between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban.

A Taliban suicide car bomber killed five people Monday near the entrance of Kabul’s international airport, the latest in a barrage of violence that has convulsed the Afghan capital since Friday. The Taliban are stepping up their summer offensive amid a bitter leadership dispute following the announcement of the death of long-time supremo Mullah Omar.

Since coming to power last year, Ghani has actively courted Pakistan in what experts call a calculated gambit to pressure the militants to the negotiating table. But in a volte-face Monday, Ghani slammed Islamabad for failing to rein in the Taliban as peace talks falter and insurgents step up attacks that are a test for beleaguered Afghan security forces.

“The last few days have shown that suicide bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories which are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan,” Ghani told a news conference. “We hoped for peace but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistan.”

“Our relationship with Pakistan is based on our national interests, on top of which comes security and safety of our people,” he said. “If our people continue to be killed, relations lose meaning and I hope it will not happen.”

In Monday’s attack a suicide car bomber tore through a crowd during the lunchtime rush at a checkpoint where passengers undergo the first round of body checks before entering the airport. Smoke billowed from the scene of the explosion, which killed at least five people, with officials warning that the toll could rise further.

The Taliban said two vehicles belonging to foreign coalition forces were the target. The Nato mission in Afghanistan has not yet commented on the bombing, which the Afghan interior ministry denounced as a “heinous act, against the values of humanity’”

It was the latest in a series of bombings in the city which began on Friday with three blasts – one close to an army complex, one at a police academy and one at a US special forces base – which killed a total of 51 people.

They were the first major attacks since Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was named as the new Taliban chief in an acrimonious power transition, after the insurgents confirmed Omar’s death.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a Taliban attack on Sunday killed up to 29 people in the northern province of Kunduz, which has become a key battleground in the fight against the militants. The wave of violence underscores Afghanistan’s volatile security situation amid a foundering peace process.

The first face-to-face talks aimed at ending the 14-year insurgency took place last month between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Pakistani hill town of Murree. The Taliban distanced themselves from a second round of talks scheduled for the end of July, after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death.

However, Ghani did not entirely shut the door on resuming dialogue with the Taliban if it stopped the violence. “We will make peace only with those who believe in the meaning of being a human, Muslim and Afghan and who do not destroy their own country on order from foreign masters,” he said.

Ghani’s comments are his strongest yet against it.

“In my telephone call with [Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday], I told Pakistan to see terrorism in Afghanistan the same way it sees terrorism in Pakistan,” he said. “I ask the Pakistani government if the mass killings of Shah Shaheed had happened in Islamabad and the perpetrators were in Afghanistan, what would you do?” he said, referring to a Kabul neighbourhood that suffered a fatal truck bombing on Friday.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2015. 

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