WEB DESK: The powerful head of army, General Raheel Sharif met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday as diplomatic contacts continued to improve regional security and prepare the way for fresh peace talks with the Taliban.
The meeting is the latest in a series of encounters between officials and politicians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India over recent months as cautious moves have begun towards easing longstanding tensions between Islamabad, New Delhi and Kabul. No official statement has been released about the content of the meeting but a source in the presidential palace said they discussed security, peace and counter-terrorism.
Sharif’s visit to Kabul follows two meetings between Ghani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over recent weeks that set the stage for efforts to restart Pakistan-brokered peace talks with the Taliban. It comes two days after a surprise visit to Lahore by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who stopped by in the Lahore on his way back from a visit to Afghanistan where he opened a new Indian-financed parliament building and delivered three Russian-made military helicopters.
Raheel Sharif, whose influence on policy extends well beyond the normal remit of an army commander, was in Washington last month where President Barack Obama and officials pushed hard for a return to negotiations. For its part, Pakistan, where many Taliban leaders are believed to be living, denies the accusation and says it is also a victim of militancy. Earlier this month, it marked the first anniversary of an attack on a school in Peshawar in which Taliban gunmen killed 134 students.
Under pressure from the United States and China, Pakistan and Afghanistan are seeking to resume peace talks with the Taliban that broke down in July when it emerged that the Taliban’s leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for more than two years and his death had been covered up.-Reuters
INP adds: Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul on Sunday and held meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah.
Discussions were held on security related issues including information sharing, co-ordinated counter terrorism operations on respective sides and way forward for Afghan peace process.
The COAS stressed on instituting an efficient mechanism for better co-ordination and preclude chances of any individual/ group crossing over to either side. Notwithstanding the complexity of prolonged presence of over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and intimate cross border tribal linkages, both sides reiterated not to allow use of their respective soil against each other and agreed to sternly handle any elements crossing over and getting involved in violence on either side, through active intelligence sharing and Intelligence Based Operations(IBOs).
Discussing the way forward for peace process in Afghanistan, both sides agreed to work in an already agreed quadrilateral framework. With a shared responsibility all stakeholders would support and ensure success of an Afghan Govt led intra Afghan dialogue and reconciliation. First round of quadrilateral meeting will be scheduled in January to work out a clear and comprehensive road map for a meaningful peace process with a clear demarcation of responsibilities of each stakeholders at all stages. Both sides agreed that they would pursue peace and reconciliation with Taliban groups willing to join the process. Elements who would still continue to pursue violence will be dealt, under a mutually worked out framework.
Emphasising the need to improve bilateral relations it was decided to establish a hot line contact between the DGMOs of both countries and increase frequency of mil to mil visits for better co-ordination.
Later COAS met Gen John F Campbell, Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and visited Bagram Air Base where he was briefed on the capabilities of Resolute Support Mission and special operations. Matters of mutual interest, regional security issues with particular reference to reconciliation process in Afghanistan and better co-ordination for operations along bordering regions came under discussion.