Pakistan has dismissed as “unfortunate” Afghan allegations that Islamabad is behind a recent spike in attacks aimed at disrupting the April 5 presidential polls and blocking Kabul’s efforts for a peace deal with the Taliban.
Afghan authorities have suggested that an attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul and attacks on electoral commission offices in recent days have been carried out by “foreign intelligence agencies.” On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by phone, urging Washington to help the situation by putting pressure on Pakistan’s spy agency.
Pakistan's advisor on foreign policy and national security, Sartaj Aziz, denied the allegations, suggesting they are part of election-season politics in Afghanistan.
In an interview with VOA, Aziz said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has tried to improve relations with Kabul. He said Pakistani authorities believed they had convinced President Karzai it has no favorites in Afghanistan and strictly adheres to a policy of non-interference.
Aziz claims the diplomatic outreach succeeded in connecting with many Afghan political factions, including leaders of the former Northern Alliance, and had improved overall relations. But the latest allegations are a setback.
“It is rather unfortunate because there is no justification for it. What do we get out of disrupting the elections? For us, a smooth transition in Afghanistan is absolutely critical because without peace and stability in Afghanistan Pakistan cannot be stable. So, therefore it is important that this thing is reviewed,” said Aziz, referring to the leveling of accusations.
Aziz also said that Pakistan is taking all possible steps to prevent anyone from trying to undermine the Afghan presidential vote and is ready to deal with any government that emerges in Kabul after the elections. He described as “unrealistic” President Karzai’s demands that Pakistan should bring the Taliban to the table to for peace talks with his government.
“He thinks somehow we should be able to deliver the Taliban but even in the best of times even before 9/11 they listened to us only when it suited them. I do not think they are under anybody’s control. So obviously we told them that this is an intra-Afghan issue we have some influence on the Taliban but we do not control them. This was what I would call an unrealistic expectation,” said Aziz.
President Karzai and his advisors routinely accuse the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, of supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
In his phone call Sunday with Kerry, President Karzai went on to complain that the Taliban wants to enter into peace talks with his government, but “there were impediments to its progress, where Pakistan’s cooperation was needed.” He called on the United States to work harder to influence countries that are opposing Afghanistan’s peace efforts.
Meanwhile, Pakistani advisor Aziz also discussed reports that the United States will not supply Pakistan with any excess equipment from Afghanistan, including armored vehicles known as MRAPs, after American troops leave.
"Obviously, if there is any surplus equipment in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will naturally like to retain it. But unfortunately this [media] report was incorrect. We have continuing defense agreement, arrangement with America and they may give us some equipment but not from Afghanistan. That is probably coming from other sources and somehow somebody got link it that a part of it will come from the surplus stores in Afghanistan and that created this misunderstanding,” explained Aziz.
The Afghan government strongly protested against the possible delivery of U.S. military hardware to Pakistan and demanded Washington immediately halt any such move. The angry reaction prompted the American commander of international forces in Afghanistan to issue a statement denying there are plans to hand over equipment to Islamabad.