KABUL: Pakistani PM Imran Khan met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first official visit to Kabul on Thursday, focusing on the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban as well as on building trust and strengthening relations between the two often acrimonious neighbors.
Ghani called Khan’s visit “historic” while the Pakistani PM assured the Afghan president that his government would do “everything possible” to help reduce violence in the war-torn country. The visit comes at a crucial time for Afghanistan as Kabul government negotiators and the Taliban are holding US-brokered negotiations in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to chart a course for a post-war Afghanistan.
“You come with a with a series of important messages… but fundamental to this is that violence is not an answer, a comprehensive political settlement for an enduring peace within the framework of our values, our constitution in the Islamic republic is the way to the future,” Ghani told Khan at the presidential palace. Khan acknowledged Pakistan had played a key role in getting the Taliban to the negotiating table and that Islamabad remains concerned that “despite the talks in Qatar, the level of violence is rising”. “Whatever is possible, we will do to help reduce the violence,” and help move the Afghan-Taliban talks toward a cease-fire, Khan said. “The whole objective of this visit is to build trust, to communicate more. We will be helping you.”
Pakistan has been applauded by Washington and Kabul for its role in getting the Taliban to the peace table. However, many Afghans still view Pakistan with mistrust, blaming it for the resurgence of the Taliban and for giving the insurgents a safe haven from which to operate. Also, Pakistan is seen by many in Afghanistan as wanting to keep the Taliban as possible leverage against influence in Afghanistan by India, which has been critical of any post-war government in Afghanistan that would include the Taliban.