Pak-Afghan contacts likely to resume this week
By Baqir Sajjad Syed | 9/1/2015

ISLAMABAD: Contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan will resume later this week if Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz leaves for Kabul to attend the sixth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA).

`We are mulling over an invitation to RECCA conference,` a senior diplomat said on Monday.

Two RECCA conferences will be held followed by a ministerial meeting, on Sept 3and4.

A meeting between Pakistani and Afghan officials is expected to take place on the sidelines of the events, to address issues that have disrupted the process of normalisation of relations between the two countries.

Ties between Islamabad and Kabul were generally improving until the recent attacks in Kabul adversely affected them.

President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of failing to cleanse its soil of terrorist bases from where attacks were being launched continuously.

He also sent a high-level delegation to Islamabad comprising Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Acting Defence Minister Masoom Stanekzai, and Intelligence Chief Rahmatullah Nabil to convey his government`s concerns about terrorist attacks in Kabul. However, the delegation received a lukewarm reception in Islamabad reportedly because of the allegations levelled at Pakistan by the Afghan government and its intelligence agency NDS.

The latest opportunity to resume contacts comes amid reports of growing international pressure on both the countries to mend their relations.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had told Pakistani leaders in meetings on Sunday thathergovernment wished to see `a return to the positive climate` between the two countries.

After his meetings in Islamabad on Monday, German Foreign Minister Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that his country was encouraging both Pakistan and Afghanistan to continue the rapprochement process.

However, analysts are not sure if a meeting between Mr Aziz and Afghan leaders would thaw relations.

The latest episode not only caused recrimination to return to bilateral exchanges, but Afghan security intelligence agencies also started harassing Pakistani diplomats in Kabul.

Diplomats at Pakistan embassy in Kabul disclosed that they had informed the Foreign Office about the increasing incidents of harassment, which forced many to shift inside the embassy.

`The staff living outside the embassy premises faced enormous harassment on the way to work. Groups of people would assemble outside their homes and hurl abuses and threats at them. They were also subjected to intense search on the security pickets while driving to the embassy,` a source said adding the staff had to relocate to the embassy because of security concerns.

In a related development, Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai called on defence secretary Lt Gen (retd) Alam Khattak.

The defence secretary briefed the envoy about efforts of the Pakistan government and its armed forces to root out terrorism and dismantle their infrastructure through operation Zarb-i-Azb.

Published in Dawn