Accessibility links

Afghan Security Concerns to Top Agenda of Karzai's Pakistan Visit - 2003-04-21


Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai starts a two-day visit Tuesday to neighboring Pakistan. The U.S.-backed leader is making the trip amid allegations of renewed Pakistani support for remnants of the former Taleban government.

President Hamid Karzai will meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and Afghan officials say security concerns will top the agenda for their meeting. There have been several deadly attacks against government and U.S. forces in Afghanistan in recent weeks.

Senior members of President Karzai's administration blame remnants of the Taleban and loyalists of renegade Afghan leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar for the violence. They accuse Pakistan of harboring those forces. In recent days, Pakistani and Afghan border forces have traded fire, increasing the tensions.

A Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aziz Ahmed Khan, said President Karzai's visit provides a chance to resolve these issues. He also said Pakistan fully supports the new government in Afghanistan and has committed $100 million for the reconstruction of the country.

"Peace and stability in Afghanistan are very important for Pakistan. So these are totally ridiculous and baseless allegations ... whether Pakistan would allow its soil to be used against the present government in Afghanistan," Mr. Khan said.

Mr. Khan said Islamabad is fully cooperating with the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition and is not allowing any illegal movement across the border. "This is the first time in the history that Pakistan has employed armed forces in the tribal areas to patrol the borders, and 60,000-70,000 troops have been employed there. We have caught the highest number of terrorists and our record has been appreciated by everybody.

President Musharraf also is expected to press Mr. Karzai for the release of hundreds of Pakistani prisoners in Afghanistan. They had fought alongside the Taleban, and have been imprisoned for more than a year. On Monday, Islamabad released 50 Afghan prisoners in its jails, as a gesture to Mr. Karzai.

Pakistan had supported Afghanistan's old Taleban government, which sheltered the al-Qaida terrorist network. But after the terror strikes in the United States in September 2001, Islamabad backed the U.S.-led effort to oust the Taleban and al-Qaida.

Last week, Washington's special representative to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad visited Pakistan to warn that anything that undermines the Afghan governments stability is a challenge to U.S. interests. Mr. Khalilzad's trip is seen as an indication of the poor state of affairs between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

XS
SM
MD
LG