Pakistan is anxiously awaiting Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani amid tension with the war-ravaged neighbour while Kabul rejoices Iran and India-sponsored Chabahar port.
Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had nothing against the Chabahar port but was very much concerned over the tension along the border with Afghanistan.
“We are expecting the Afghan president to visit Pakistan so that we can find out a solution to the militants’ hideouts on the Afghan side. There have been regular attacks on our side by the militants taking refuge there (in Afghanistan),” said one official.
He said: “The Afghan president is still ready to come but he does not seem that optimistic about these talks. He is back in the pessimistic mode.”
Earlier on Monday, two Pakistani army men – a captain and a soldier– were killed by attackers from Afghanistan. The assailants also wounded four others.
A military statement said at least ten terrorists were killed in retaliation at the border. Sepoy Raham and Captain Junaid Hafeez were identified as Pakistanis killed in the attack.
“Terrorists from Afghanistan side attempted an attack on Pakistani posts along Pak-Afghan border in Bajaur Agency. The attempt was effectively responded killing 8-10 fleeing terrorists while many seen running back injured,” the military statement said. “The absence of Afghan (state) writ on (the) Afghan side of the border, like many other areas, facilitate terrorists to undertake such attempts,” it added.
In 2016, Pakistan had announced to fence the borders with Afghanistan to check movement as scores of suicide attacks were traced back to handlers in Afghanistan. Last month, Ghani accepted Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s invitation to come to Pakistan to strengthen diplomatic ties.
Ghani , who had previously declined the invitation to visit Pakistan , said, “this time he will come with his entire family”.
After the Bajwa-Ghani meeting, both sides had termed the talks successful and vowed to move towards enduring peace and stability. There was also a consensus on regular and focused dialogue at multiple levels to evolve the bilateral process for minimising misunderstanding, managing crisis situations and enhancing cooperation in order to bring peace and stability in the region.
But as the Chabahar port opened with the first wheat shipment from India, Afghanistan said it no longer was dependent on Pakistan’s Karachi port. The shipment arrived in Nimroz province in Afghanistan’s west. Nimroz Governor Mohammad Samiullah said: “With Chabahar port, Afghanistan will no longer be dependent on Karachi port.”
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said, “Pakistan was not against bilateral trade between countries and does not see Chabahar port as any threat. This is not an alliance against us. Out trade also continues with Afghanistan, Iran and China as per routine.” Another official at the foreign ministry said the visit of Afghan president was more important than Chabahar port or any other trade agreement.
“We are looking forward to Ghani’s visit which will help resolve the issues. These bilateral cooperations and agreements cannot be seen as conspiracies,” he told The Nation.
Former ambassador Mushtaq Ahmed Mehar said a Pakistani diplomatic official was killed in Afghanistan recently and now there has been another cross-border strike. “Afghanistan should investigate these incidents and support our efforts for peace in the region. They (Afghanistan) should not play in the hands of India,” he said.
Mehr said the majority of areas in Afghanistan were beyond the writ of the government. “Afghanistan should itself show interest in peace and stability. We are ready to help but under the circumstances, they need to stop the terrorists hiding there from targeting Pakistan ,” he said.
International affairs expert Dr A Z Hilali said the US had miserably failed to establish peace in Afghanistan. He said the militants have hideouts in Afghanistan and they were targeting Pakistan . Hilali said only Pakistan has an important role to play in Afghanistan and President Ghani should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts for Afghan peace in the past. “Instead of getting carried away after the opening of the Chabahar port, Ghani should play sensibly,” he maintained.