Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday pitched for a joint campaign against extremism with Pakistan and sought its cooperation to jumpstart the peace process with the Taliban in his war-torn country.
Arriving in Pakistan on a day-long visit,Karzai,who has long accused Pakistan of playing a double game in the Afghan war,made his appeal in talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who promised to extend all possible assistance.
“We discussed in this regard primarily and with emphasis the issue of joint fight against extremism and reconciliation in Afghanistan with the expectation that the Government of Pakistan will facilitate and help in manners it can to the peace process in Afghanistan and providing opportunities on all platforms for talks between Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban movement,” Karzai said.
The Afghan President said the primary concern for both countries is the lack of security for their citizens and the continuing menace of terrorism.
“It is this area that needs to have primary focussed attention by both countries. It is with hope on this that I have come to Pakistan and to advance efforts and action together so that we can have peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Karzai said addressing TV cameras.
Sharif on his part said his government has assumed office with the resolve to create a peaceful external environment so that it can focus on Pakistan’s domestic priorities.
“Being in a cooperative and stable relationship with all our neighbours is a vital component of this vision. Our security and future prosperity is linked to Afghanistan in multiple ways. President Karzai is visiting at an important juncture in his country’s history,” Sharif said.
Ties between the two countries nosedived after Pakistan and the US supported a Taliban office that opened in Doha in June to foster talks. Karzai was infuriated by the opening of the Taliban office,considered a precursor towards talks with US officials. He now wants Pakistan to help open dialogue with the Taliban which has refused all contact with Kabul.
Afghanistan has often accused Pakistani elements of aiding the Afghan Taliban.
Karzai was also upset over a reported statement in June by Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz that Kabul should cede some Afghan provinces to the Taliban for lasting peace.
“We focussed on common challenges that we face. I stressed to President Karzai the importance that Pakistan attaches to peaceful,stable and united Afghanistan. I also reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” Sharif said.
“We fully agree that this process has to be inclusive,Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. I assured Karzai that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitations,” he said.
He said Pakistan will also help reinforce regional support in stabilisation of Afghanistan. “It is also indispensable for our positive agenda of peace and development,” he added.
Both sides also talked about increasing bilateral cooperation in the field of economy and connectivity.
Karzai said Pakistan,as a friend and neighbour can expect good from Afghanistan just as Afghanistan expects the same from Pakistan.
The Afghan President said he informed Sharif about Kabul’s regional and international relations.
He underlined that Afghanistan’s relations with countries of the world and in the region will only be beneficial to the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan has been sceptical of Afghanistan’s strategic engagement with India.
This is the first highest-level exchange between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the democratic transition and swearing-in of the new government here.
This is also Karzai’s first visit to Islamabad in 18 months and could be crucial in overcoming hostility ahead of the massive troop pullout in 2014 by the US-led NATO forces.
Pakistan too wants some sort of political settlement between Kabul and the Taliban to avoid a civil war scenario at its restive border.
But there is pervasive suspicion about Pakistan’s long term objective and role of its ISI intelligence agency in backing the Taliban.
Islamabad also allegedly torpedoed an effort by Kabul to strike a deal with the militants by arresting Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Barader from Karachi in 2010.
Karzai has asked Pakistan to release Barader and other high-profile Taliban prisoners to show its earnestness for peace.
The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Afghan government so far,accusing them of being a US puppet.
The chairman of the High Peace Council,a body created by Karzai in 2010 to broker peace with the Taliban,is accompanying him on the trip.