ISLAMABAD - Pakistan says the national unity government in neighboring Afghanistan is a good beginning for promoting peace and reconciliation in the war-shattered country and Islamabad is ready to offer whatever help Kabul needs to further the peace process.
Pakistan’s traditionally uneasy relations with Afghanistan have sharply deteriorated during President Hamid Karzai’s final months in office. His administration publicly accused Pakistani spy agency, ISI, of helping the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups continue the war in Afghanistan, charges Islamabad rejects.
In turn, Pakistani officials blamed Afghan authorities for letting anti-Pakistan militants establish sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border and launch deadly attacks against Pakistani military outposts.
But officials in Islamabad say they are “absolutely confident” relations with Kabul will improve under new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on national security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, says his country has made initial contacts with President Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. He told VOA the talks were “very positive,” and both the Afghan leaders have shown their desire to forge “a much stronger and special relationship” with Pakistan.
“A smooth transition has taken place and a democratically elected government has taken over [in Afghanistan]. And at the same time, the fact that both the ethnic groups [majority Pashtun and minority Tajik] are represented in it, is also a very good start, particularly for reconciliation because in this case it strengthens the hands of the government to deal with other groups,” Aziz explained.
The Pakistani advisor was referring to the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami militant groups waging a bloody insurgency against Afghan and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Kabul believes key Taliban leaders and commanders are sheltering in Pakistan and want the neighboring country to help in promoting peace.
Aziz reiterated that Afghanistan has to take the lead in promoting political reconciliation within the country and hopes President Ghani will implement an agreement Pakistan made with his predecessor on effective management of their porous border.
“Reconciliation is an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process, but if they want our help, whatever help we can give. But it is an Afghan initiative how they want to approach this task and what exactly do they want us to do. So, once they have developed their strategy and they need our help we will certainly respond positively,” he said.
Aziz says Pakistan has no reservations about the security pacts Afghanistan has signed with the United States and NATO. He termed it "a positive development", saying they will help better train Afghan security forces and will ensure Afghanistan receives much needed international financial assistance to support its economy.
Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Janan Mosazai, is also upbeat about a strong bilateral relationship in the coming years.
“President Ashraf Ghani Ahmdzai’s focus will also [be] on strengthening, deepening and broadening economic cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because so far we have focused mainly on trade ... So, there will be a redoubling of efforts on the part of the new Afghan government to enhance and strengthen economic ties, but also to work on deepening cooperation between the two countries in the necessary and essential common struggle and common fight against terrorism and extremism, which has taken such a huge toll on both countries,” Mosazai noted.
The Afghan ambassador says the new government in Kabul will be seeking enhanced cooperation and improved coordination from Pakistan to defeat terrorist forces in the region and ensure stability on both sides of the border.