ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari held a telephonic conversation with Acting Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi on Saturday as Pakistan presses the interim government to tackle the threat of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
“The foreign minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan,” said a brief statement issued by the foreign office, adding that both leaders discussed a range of issues of mutual interest.
No further details were provided but sources said the telephone call could be a prelude to the likely visit of Muttaqi to Islamabad.
They said the acting foreign minister is expected to visit Islamabad as the two neighbours are struggling to find a common ground on how to deal with TTP and its affiliates.
As per sources, Islamabad and Kabul are in contact with each other to finalise the date of the Taliban’s chief diplomat’s visit, which is likely to take place in the coming weeks.
Muttaqi undertook a maiden trip to Islamabad in November 2021 months after the Afghan Taliban returned to power.
Pakistan had hoped that the Taliban takeover would improve border security and importantly the issue of terrorist sanctuaries would be sorted out. But contrary to expectations, the TTP-sponsored attacks have only increased causing friction in bilateral ties. Efforts by the Afghan Taliban to mediate a peace deal between Pakistan and the TTP have failed.
At a recent meeting of the National Security Committee, the country’s civil and military leadership admitted that a policy to make peace with the TTP had led to the rise in terrorism.
The stance taken by the current government and establishment means that Pakistan would no longer seek any talks with the TTP.
In February, a high-powered Pakistani delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, along with the DG ISI and other senior officials, visited Kabul to issue a stern warning to the Afghan Taliban to tackle the TTP threat.
Pakistan confronted the Taliban government with evidence of TTP presence and their whereabouts. The Afghan intelligence officials travelled to Islamabad following the Pakistani delegation’s visit to sort out the issue.
Against this backdrop, the likely visit of the Afghan interim FM would be significant.