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Afghan factions unite in condemnation of Shehbaz Sharif over terror comments

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

Pakistani Prime Minister’s Shehbaz Sharif’s critical remarks about Afghanistan appear to have broadened the rift between Islamabad and Kabul besides uniting the Afghans.

Sharif drew the attention of the international community towards Afghanistan at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session on September 23, saying the presence of terrorists in Afghanistan posed a threat to the world.

Sharif told the UNGA: “Pakistan shares the key concern of the international community regarding the threat posed by the major terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan especially Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as well as Al-Qaeda, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)”.

Stung by the remarks, the Taliban government, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and even the TTP were severe in their condemnation of Sharif.

Afghan-Pak relations have been sliding downhill over issues like cricket and clashes over the Durand line that segregates the two nations through Pashtun regions.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government severely came down on Sharif. Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi said: “Some countries, including the United States and Pakistan, expressed concerns … that threat of terrorism still exists in Afghanistan. These concerns, based on incorrect information and sources, are being brought up as the relevant parties are yet to hand over the seat of Afghanistan at the United Nations to its rightful, legal and political owners, the Afghan government.”

Karzai also tweeted in support of his country, saying: “The statement at UNGA of Hon. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan regarding the presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan is unfortunate and untrue”.

He added: “Facts are in opposite direction: Pakistan govt has been for decades nurturing and using terrorism against the people, culture and heritage of Afghanistan. Continuing to use propaganda and extremism to undermine the wellbeing of the people of #Afghanistan is not in the interest of #Pakistan, conducting a civilised relationship is”.

The TTP too joined the fray by saying that Pakistan sponsored terrorists were operating in Afghanistan. It also said that it is aware about the whereabouts of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar—designated as a global terrorist by the UN.

This is the second time in the last few days that there has been a spat between the neighbours over sheltering terrorists. With a precarious financial situation, now exacerbated by floods, Pakistan has cosied up to the US with an eye on bail-out loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). By playing these games, Pakistan also seeks to get of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) sanctions imposed on it for terror funding and being a supporter of global terrorism.

In a bid to demonstrate to the US that it is still a reliable ally in the war on terror, Pakistan had written a letter to the Taliban about ten days back, saying that the JeM chief is likely to be in Nangarhar or Kunhar areas of Afghanistan. In a show of innocence, it also asked Afghanistan’s Taliban government to hand over Azhar to Pakistan.

Azhar is one of India’s most wanted terrorist leaders and one who masterminded the Pulwama attacks in Jammu and Kashmir causing the death of 40 Indian security personnel. The attack almost brought India and Pakistan on the verge of a war.

Pakistan’s terror allegations against the Taliban regime provide the latter with an opportunity to once again appeal to the world to invite Afghanistan into the UN and welcome the country back into the global mainstream.

Foreign relations between the two neighbours have touched rock-bottom with the governments in Kabul and Islamabad insinuating and blaming the other for harbouring terrorists. The people-to-people ties also are under strain with the Afghans often mocking Pakistan for its role in promoting terror in the region. Earlier in September, Pakistan had arrested a number of Afghans residing in Pakistan for celebrating Sri Lanka’s win over Pakistan in the Asia Cup in Dubai.

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