KABUL: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday arrived in Kabul to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani amid stalled peace talks between the Afghanistan government and Taliban.
Khan’s one-day visit was his first trip to the Afghan capital since assuming office in 2018.
It is the highest-profile visit by a foreign official since peace talks began between the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital of Doha in September and comes at a time when the negotiations have hit a stalemate and violence in Afghanistan is on the rise.
The Pakistani PM’s trip took place just days after the US administration decided to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan by January, ahead of a complete withdrawal of its forces next spring.
Many Afghan and US officials believe that Pakistan has influence over the Taliban and can convince their top leaders to move toward a cease-fire.
During a joint press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Ghani described the visit as “historic,” while Khan recalled the role Islamabad had played in persuading the Taliban to take part in intra-Afghan discussions.
“We are assuring you that we will do more than your expectation,” Khan said.
“The whole idea of coming at the time that violence is increasing here is to show you Mr. President that we, the people of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan, have only one concern what you are feeling. We want peace for the people of Afghanistan, who have suffered for the past four decades.”
Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told media after the conference that the two leaders had also discussed “mutual issues related to business, trade, economic cooperation, and security.”
The premier’s visit followed a new wave of mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad, after Afghanistan accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban leaders on its soil and supporting their cross-border attacks on Afghan and foreign troops.
Islamabad has always rejected the accusations and expressed concerns that India, who has lately forged close ties with Kabul, was using Afghanistan to undermine Pakistan’s security — claims India has always denied.
Khan had pointed out this concern during an Islamabad visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the Afghan National Council for Reconciliation and Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator.
Ahmad Saeedi, a former Afghan diplomat in Pakistan, told Arab News that by making the trip to Kabul, Khan was trying to highlight to the world and the upcoming US administration of American President-elect Joe Biden that Pakistan was playing its part in the Afghan peace process and could “break the deadlock in Afghan peace talks.”
He said: “I think Pakistan can play an important role in the peace process if it wants when its concerns are addressed by Kabul. We know that as much as the Taliban are part of the problem, the government (Kabul) is too, and Pakistan has its influence.”