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Pakistan holds 'good' meeting with Afghan Taliban in Qatar amid strained ties

The Afghan Taliban delegation, which was in Qatar's capital of Doha to attend a UN-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan this week, was hosted over a dinner by the Pakistani mission in Qatar on the sidelines of the conference, the Dawn newspaper reported Tuesday.
Last Updated : 02 July 2024, 14:57 IST

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Islamabad: Pakistani diplomats held a "good" meeting with the representatives of Afghanistan's Taliban-led interim government in Qatar this week during which they discussed bilateral and regional issues, in what was seen as an effort to ease tension and mend strained ties between the two neighbours.

The Afghan Taliban delegation, which was in Qatar's capital of Doha to attend a UN-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan this week, was hosted over a dinner by the Pakistani mission in Qatar on the sidelines of the conference, the Dawn newspaper reported Tuesday.

Zabihullah Mujahid, chief Taliban government spokesman who headed the delegation to Doha, described his meeting with Pakistani diplomats as "good" and expressed the hope for developing "positive relations” with Pakistan, the paper said.

"We had a good meeting with the special representative of Pakistan, Asif Durrani, and the ambassador and consuls of the country in Qatar,” Mujahid wrote on X on Tuesday. “I am grateful for their hospitality and hope for good and positive relations for both countries.” On his part, Durrani said both sides discussed the “Doha-III, bilateral and regional issues” during the meeting, according to the newspaper.

Pakistan's envoy to Qatar, Muhemmed Aejaz, who hosted the meeting at his residence, said “Both [sides] remain neighbours and brothers and have a lot in common, including a strong desire for regional peace and security.” During his speech at the opening session of the UN-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan on June 30, Durrani raised the issue of militancy and urged the Afghan interim government to take action against the Tehreek-e-Taliban and other terror groups.

Pakistan has repeatedly called on the Afghan interim government to prevent its soil from being used against it by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other terrorist groups - a claim rejected by Kabul.

Pakistani and Taliban officials also had another interaction in Doha at a quadrilateral meeting along with Uzbekistan and Qatar officials.

"On the sidelines of Doha-III, a quadrilateral meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Qatar reviewed the Trans-Afghan Railway project to connect Uzbekistan and Pakistan via Afghanistan. The project will effectively connect South & Central Asia", Durrani wrote on X.

Mujahid, who attended the quadrilateral meeting said, “All sides called for early start and completion of the Trans-Afghan Railway project.” During the meeting, Durrani called for enhanced international engagement with the Afghan interim government and unfreezing Afghanistan’s assets.

Pakistan also highlighted the issue of Afghan refugees and called for creating a conducive environment in Afghanistan for their repatriation.

Relations between the two countries have lately become strained, largely because of the TTP but also due to frequent border skirmishes.

On Saturday, Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif slammed the Afghan Taliban-led government in Kabul for not taking action against militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, despite repeated requests made by Islamabad.

"Pakistan hoped for cooperation from the Afghan government, however, the latter was not ready to take action against the militants,” Asif said in an interview with BBC Urdu in which he also said that Pakistan even offered to grant Rs10 billion to shift the militants towards the western border.

In an interview with Voice of America last week, Asif said that under ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’, Pakistan could target terrorist hideouts across the border in Afghanistan. He had also dismissed the possibility of negotiations with the TTP.

The Afghan defence ministry’s spokesman angrily reacted to Asif’s remarks about hitting TTP hideouts in Afghanistan.

In March, Pakistani air force jets carried out air strikes against terrorists in the border regions of Khost and Paktika inside the neighbouring country.

Soon after the strike, Asif said that Pakistan wanted to convey to the Afghan interim government in Kabul that “we cannot continue like this.” There has been an uptick in the incidents of terrorism in Pakistan since the Taliban took over the government in Kabul in 2021, dashing hopes in Islamabad that a friendly government in Afghanistan would help to tackle militancy.

According to an annual security report issued by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank, Pakistan witnessed 1,524 violence-related fatalities and 1,463 injuries from 789 terror attacks and counter-terror operations in 2023 - marking a six-year high record.

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Published 02 July 2024, 14:57 IST

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