ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, will undertake a crucial visit to Afghanistan on Sunday where his delegation is to discuss with Afghan counterparts ways to strengthen bilateral security cooperation and border management efforts.
Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have been marred by mistrust and suspicion, with both sides routinely accusing each other’s security institutions of backing fugitive anti-state militants to plot terrorist attacks against the other.
While no official details of Bajwa’s expected engagements in Kabul have been announced, he is scheduled to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a Pakistani official told VOA on condition of anonymity.
General Bajwa is expected to reiterate offers of training for Afghan soldiers and police personnel in Pakistani institutions and emphasize the need for the two countries to resolve differences by relying on bilateral mechanisms and dialogue.
The Afghan government and the United States allege Taliban insurgents use sanctuaries on Pakistani soil for launching attacks in Afghanistan.
Islamabad rejects the charges and insists no such activity is taking place on its side of the largely porous border because of sustained anti-terrorism operations Pakistani security forces have undertaken over the past few years.
Pakistani officials also cite building of a fence and new security outposts on the nearly 2,600-kilometer border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Chief military spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said the fence will be in place within the next two years.
“If Afghans are willing to build the fence and posts on their side, we are ready to do it for you so that only peaceful citizens can cross the border,” he recently told a group of Afghan and Pakistani reporters.
Until a few years ago, he said, the border was free of observation posts, terrorists were “roaming freely” in both directions but “today from our side 90 percent of the areas are difficult to infiltrate.”
Kabul, however, opposes the fencing project because it traditionally disputes the demarcation established in 1896 under British rule.
Pakistan dismisses the objection and recognizes the boundary as an international frontier the country inherited after gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Afghan officials maintain that Taliban insurgents are being harbored in major Pakistani cities, including Quetta and Peshawar and simply fencing the border will not address their concerns.
For their part, Pakistani authorities maintain that militants who have fled security operations have taken shelter in Afghanistan and plot attacks against the country with the help of the Afghan intelligence agency.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, at a public talk in New York earlier this week, recounted his country’s contributions to fighting terrorism and helping U.S.-backed efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. He criticized U.S. attempts to single out Pakistan for all the ills plaguing the war-ravage country.
“The drug production in Afghanistan has gone up by 3,700 percent. Are we responsible? Daesh [Islamic State group] is there in three [Afghan] provinces, proven presence. Are we responsible for that? Forty percent of territory lost to the Taliban in the last 15 years. Are we responsible for that? The corruption, Afghan soldiers selling their weapons in open market to the Taliban. Are we responsible for that?”