ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s president says Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has responded “warmly” to Islamabad’s “sincere” overtures and that improving relations with Kabul will lead to regional peace and stability.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain says Pakistan is a peaceful nation and it desires friendly relations with international community, particularly with its neighbors.
Addressing lawmakers to begin the parliamentary year, he said Pakistan’s “sincerity” to forge close ties has resulted in the opening of a “new chapter” in bilateral relations with Afghanistan’s new government.
The president added: “We are pleased to note that Mr. Ashraf Ghani and the new Afghan leadership have warmly reciprocated to Pakistan’s sincere initiative.”
Hussain went on to assert that “based on the mutual trust, the relationship between the countries will not only promote regional peace and stability but will also determine new avenues for bilateral cooperation.”
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have traditionally been marred by mutual suspicions and distrust. The tensions stemmed primarily from allegations the Pakistan military did not cut links to the Taliban even after becoming an ally in the U.S.-led war against the Islamist insurgency.
However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has attempted to put old differences aside since assuming office last September and both sides now appear in agreement that they are fighting the same enemy.
On Wednesday, while speaking via video to a gathering in Qatar of American and leaders from across the Islamic world, Mr. Ghani suggested there is still room for improvement in relations with Pakistan.
“Pakistan, we have argued and Pakistani leaders have accepted, has been in undeclared state of war with Afghanistan during the past 14 years," said Ghani. "In light of the threat posed by terrorists to our citizens and states, we need to reach peace and then strive for normal and cooperative relations between the states, sovereign states of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Pakistan has lately acknowledged it is attempting to use its influence with the Taliban to persuade it to cease hostilities and engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.
But the militant group has instead intensified its violent summer campaign in Afghanistan, prompting critics in Kabul to question Pakistan’s motives and denounce President Ghani for his alleged “soft and pro-Pakistan policy."
Afghan lawmakers and media have even accused the president of selling out to Pakistan, after he authorized a deal to improve counterterrorism cooperation between spy agencies of of the two countries. The accord has been dubbed by some as the most significant Ghani gesture to reconcile with Pakistan in his bid to find peace with the Taliban.
In background interviews with VOA, Pakistani intelligence officials have expressed “displeasure” over recent Afghan criticism and allegations against Pakistan.
But they insist the Afghan national unity government under President Ghani's leadership appears determined to improve bilateral ties, and they cite "detractors" as well as "pro-war elements" in Afghanistan's security establishment for trying to spoil the prevailing friendly atmosphere on both sides.
A senior military official requesting anonymity says Pakistan’s recent interactions with President Ghani’s administration at political, security and diplomatic levels have been “extremely cordial and productive".
“Things are moving positively and both sides do realize that there will be challenges on the way,” the official said, referring to Afghans who are opposed to cooperation with Pakistan’s military and intelligence institutions they have for long held responsible for interference in Afghanistan.