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Pakistan delegation in Kabul to mend fences over TTP and border flare-ups

Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif meets with Afghanistan’s acting deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund (Photo: @FDPM_AFG/Twitter)

After months of threatening Kabul with cross-border attacks, accusing it of foisting violence through the Pakistan Taliban terror group in its border regions, Pakistan has decided to speak with its western neighbour directly. On Wednesday, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif reached Kabul with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum and other officials.

The Pakistani delegation met with Afghanistan’s acting Deputy Prime Minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund. Baradar’s office tweeted a photograph of the meeting and said: “Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, met with the Pakistani Minister of Defense, leading a high-ranking delegation. The two parties discussed economic cooperation, regional connectivity, trade, and bilateral relations”.

The Afghan minister also emphasised on the Pakistani delegation “that political and security concerns should not affect business or economic matters. Mullah Baradar Akhund further added that the Islamic Emirate calls on Pakistan to release Afghans being detained in detention facilities in Pakistan. He further added that passengers at Torkham and Spin Boldak should be well-facilitated, with special consideration being given to emergency patients”.

The Pakistani foreign office also tweeted about the visit, saying: “A high-ranking delegation led by the Minister for Defence is in Kabul today to meet with officials of the Afghan Interim Government to discuss security related matters including counter terrorism measures”.

Relations between the two Islamic nations have touched rock bottom over allegations and counter-allegations about harbouring of terrorists. The border terrain between the two nations allows for easy movement of terrorists.

Pakistan Home Minister Rana Sanaullah had in January said that the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) is present in Afghanistan and Pakistani security forces will target TTP hideouts across the border. Sanaullah’s comments had invited a strong riposte from Afghanistan Taliban’s spokesperson Zahibullah Mujahid who said that Islamabad should “avoid baseless talks and provocative ideas”.

Besides the relentless attacks on Pakistani security forces by the TTP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and even Punjab, relations are also clouded because of arbitrary shutting down of border crossings by both the countries. Much violence has taken place between the Afghan Taliban border guards and the Pakistani border security forces. Border crossings are vital for both countries but more so for landlocked Afghanistan.

A recent report by a US think tank said that the government in Kabul does not fear cross-border attacks by Islamabad as Pakistani clout diminishes on its political, economic and security fronts. With Pakistan hovering on the verge of financial collapse, the view in Afghanistan is that the country does not have the economic might to attack Afghanistan.

This is the first high-level meeting between the two South Asian nations after the November 2022 visit by Pakistani minister for state for foreign affairs Hina Rabbani Khar. Her visit took place soon after the TTP declared an end to the Kabul-mediated ceasefire with Pakistan and asked its cadre to attack the Pakistani government everywhere.

Also read: Will the ISIS attack in Kabul wreck Chinese dreams in Afghanistan?