Afghan delegation expected in Pakistan soon: Asif

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday said an Afghan delegation was expected in Pakistan soon in continuation of talks related to various issues including regional security and counter-terrorism measures.

The minister’s statement comes more than a week after a high-level Pakistani delegation, led by Asif, visited Kabul to meet with officials of the Afghan interim government to discuss a variety of issues from security to bilateral cooperation.

The two sides had specifically discussed the growing threat of terrorism in the region, particularly from the banned militant groups Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), in the high-level talks.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan are neighbours and should have cordial relations. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants expansion of commercial and economic relations with Pakistan as such relations are in the interest of both countries,” the official statement from Afghanistan had said on February 22.

Afghanistan’s Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar had noted that political and security issues should not affect trade and economic matters between the two countries and be kept separate from political and security problems.

Addressing a press talk in Islamabad today, Asif emphasised that the Afghan territory must not be used by terrorists, especially in light of the agreement signed in Doha.

“We asked them to honour the accord and they agreed to our request,” the minister added.

In February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, to bring an end to the 2001–2021 war in Afghanistan. The agreement ultimately led to the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan on Aug 15, 2021.

Asif said Pakistan fought hard to rein in terrorism and vowed the government would do so again. “We will fight as we did in the past.”

He insisted there would be accountability for people who agreed to fight “America’s war” in the 80s.

Turning his guns on his top political rival Imran Khan, Asif claimed the former premier had made no political decisions without the establishment’s help.

He went on to allege that Imran wanted to appoint the army chief of his choice to keep clinging on to power for another five years.

The minister also rebuffed reports of the government’s alleged plan to arrest him, saying “we are not in a hurry as he is getting exposed in front of his supporters [with his own actions].”

He urged the courts to “treat” the PTI chief as it did to politicians in the past.

“It shouldn’t look like he is being accommodated. The treatment he has received will bring us (PML-N) political dividends.”

He said “special treatment” should not be given to the PTI chief. “The ex-premier has no courage if the establishment’s ventilator is not attached to him,” the minister claimed.

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