ISLAMABAD - Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Omar Zakhilwal yesterday hinted that a joint operation against TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah could be possible in near future, as he expressed hope for improvement in Pak Afghan relations this year.

In an exclusive interview with Waqt Television, the ambassador said Afghanistan could never allow India to use its soil against Pakistan, terming such an impression to be an insult to the whole Afghan nation.

Talking in programme ‘Embassy Road’, he expressed the hope that the relations between Islamabad and Kabul would see an improvement despite the current chill in bilateral ties.

Hinting at the backchannel efforts for normalisation of relations between the two neighbours, Dr Omar Zakhilwal said, “The year 2017 will see the relations between the two countries turning warm from cold.”

Dispelling the impression of framing anti-Pakistan policies on the pull of India, Afghan Ambassador said his country was a sovereign state and it charts its policies on foreign affairs, national security, and economy purely in line with the national interest. Believing that Kabul was doing New Delhi’s bidding was therefore an insult to the whole Afghan nation, he added.

When his attention was drawn towards the use of Afghan soil for terrorism in Pakistan and the concerns of Pakistan government in this connection, the Afghan envoy said that it was on the demand of Pakistan that Afghan authorities had killed Qari Yasin and some other terrorists wanted by Islamabad.

To a question about handing over of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Mullah Fazalullah to Pakistan, who is hiding somewhere in Afghanistan, he said that he was not a lame duck which the Afghan authorities could hand over to Pakistan. But he said that a joint operation against Fazalullah could be possible.

He, however, demanded of Islamabad to also take action against those militants who were openly roaming around in Pakistan and were engaged in the terrorist attack of heinous nature in Afghanistan.

Recalling the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan soon after assuming the office, the Afghan Ambassador said that he had undertaken the visit despite advice from certain quarters not to do so, but he had put his credibility on the stake and finally left Islamabad empty handed.

He further said that it was on his advice that Ghani held meeting with the then Army Chief of Pakistan.

When asked about Pakistan hosting the dialogue between Afghan government and Taliban for bringing lasting peace in the restive country, Ambassador Zakhilwal said that actually in the meetings second or third line leaders of Taliban had participated and the key figures remained away from the exercise.

To a question about easing out the tension on Pak-Afghan border, he said that tensions were not in the interest of either of the countries, which are knitted in the historical bonds spanning over several centuries.

The Afghan ambassador also said that trade between the two countries was adversely affected by these border closures and claimed that bilateral trade had sharply declined over the past five years from $5 billion to $1.5 billion. Now, Iran had captured the vacuum created in the trade to the border tension, he added.

The Afghan envoy stressed the need for more exchanges of culture, parliamentarians and traders delegations so that the misunderstandings on both sides could be contained.