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Ghani interview triggers war of words between Pakistan and Afghanistan

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani’s plain speaking has rattled Pakistan, triggering a war of words between the two neighbouring countries

The recent interview by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani to a German magazine has rattled Pakistan, triggering a war of words between the two neighbouring countries.

Ghani’s detailed observations about insider links between Pakistan and Taliban, including Islamabad’s harbouring of the militant group appears to have incensed Pakistan.  On Monday, a furious Islamabad served a demarche to Afghanistan's ambassador Najibullah Alikhel, protesting against the accusations that have been levelled by the Afghan leadership.

The Pakistani Foreign office said in a statement that Islamabad had conveyed its concerns to Kabul in the strong demarche.

Also Read: Ahead of US withdrawal, Afghanistan shows no signs of healing

"Pakistan has emphasised that groundless accusations erode trust and vitiate the environment between the two brotherly countries and disregard the constructive role being played by Pakistan in facilitating the Afghan peace process,” the statement said.

In his interview with DER SPIEGEL, Ghani claimed that Pakistan "operated an organised system of support" for the Taliban. He added that the Taliban "receive logistics there (in Pakistan), their finances are there and recruitment is there". Ghani didn't mince his words in the interview and said: “The names of the various decision-making bodies of the Taliban are Quetta Shura, Miramshah Shura and Peshawar Shura – named after the Pakistani cities where they are located. There is a deep relationship with the state.” Ghani pointed out that future security agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan is necessary for the peace but “ my goal is the neutrality of Afghanistan.”

Ghani also mentioned about his meeting with the Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed last week in Kabul. He said that Bajwa made it clear that he does not endorse the restoration of the Emirate or dictatorship by Taliban but added that caveat that some of the lower levels in the army still hold the opposite opinion in certain cases. It is primarily a question of political will.

The Afghan President made it clear that the world needs to put pressure on Pakistan because peace will primarily be decided upon regionally, it is first and foremost a matter of getting Pakistan on board. The U.S. now plays only a minor role. The question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands.

Two days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to decide its Afghan policy of "undeclared war" against his country by supporting terror networks including the Taliban, his national security advisor, Hamdullah Mohib, also came down heavily against Pakistan’s army and ISI, accusing them of destabilising the country.

“The ISI has no mercy on you. Whatever they say and promise, are all lies. All they want is to sacrifice you in their war,” said Mohib.

Quoting the sources, Tolo news reports that Taliban leaders led by Shai Abdul Hakim Haqqani have been in Pakistan over the last 20 days. Abdul Hakim Haqqani was a close aide of Taliban founder Mullah Omar and shares a special relationship with Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada.

A hardliner, he spent years lying low in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta since 2001, from where he led the Taliban's judiciary and headed a powerful council of Taliban clerics that issued religious edicts to justify the group's brutal insurgency in Afghanistan. Experts say he is widely respected among the Taliban for his religious credentials, ranking alongside Mullah Akhundzada as the most senior cleric in the militant group.  He represents the original leadership and core constituency of the Taliban, the clerics of the Pashtun tribes of the greater Kandahar region in Afghanistan.

According to Mohib, Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban and the possible encouragement from Pakistan of course has a deep impact on the movement’s conduct.