ISI chief visits Afghanistan amid heightened tensions.


Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, travelled to Afghanistan on Tuesday amid tensions between the two countries in an apparent bid to improve bilateral relations.

There was no official word from both countries on the objectives of visit. Pakistan’s parliamentary speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said the trip was aimed at improving ties and expanding political and military cooperation.

However, Tolo News channel reported that the international relations committee of the Afghan parliament said Mukhtar’s trip “was an attempt by Islamabad to stop the blacklisting of Pakistan due to it being an alleged state sponsor of terrorism”.

“Pakistan is now in a situation where there is fear that the country will be declared as a state sponsor of terrorism. Therefore, Pakistan is trying to improve its relations with Afghanistan,” said Daud Kalakani, head of the committee for the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of Parliament.

Mukhtar is the first senior Pakistani official to visit Afghanistan following fresh tensions between the two sides. The visit came against the backdrop of reports that the US is set to announce a new war strategy for Afghanistan.

“Relations between Kabul and Islamabad are coming closer following the integration of Mr Hekmatyar with the government of Afghanistan. Today Gen Naveed Mukhtar came to Kabul and met with (National Security Adviser) Massoum Stanekzai and returned to Pakistan after secret talks with (President Ashraf) Ghani,” said political analyst Ahmad Saeedi.

A Pakistani parliamentary delegation recently met Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah and invited him to visit Islamabad. Abdullah’s office said that visit was linked to Pakistan’s cooperation in the war against terrorism.

“Trips, meetings and consultations would strengthen the ties, but the important thing is that the Pakistanis should abide by their commitments and stop backing enemies of Afghanistan,” said Jawed Faisal, Abdullah’s deputy spokesman.

In February, Pakistan announced fresh border restrictions with Afghanistan following a string of deadly attacks on Pakistani cities that Islamabad blamed on insurgents operating from Afghan soil. The border row soured relations between the two sides.


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