ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Afghanistan Monday agreed to remove misunderstandings and improve ties as Islamabad prepared to hold talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford this week.

Pompeo and Dunford are expected in Pakistan on September 5 to hold talks with Pakistan new leadership on “action against common foes and terrorists.” US Defence Secretary James Mattis said: “It will be made clear to authorities in Pakistan that what we have to do for all our nations.”

Pak-US ties have been frosty for several months. In January, the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. State Department said the US was suspending ‘security assistance’ to Pakistan as the trust level between the two countries drastically declined. Washington said Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and both the top diplomats pledged to settle differences amid the US pressure.

The Afghan minister assured to providing fool-proof to Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad which was shut down amid threats, said a foreign ministry statement.

During the telephonic talks, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s commitment towards peace and stability in Afghanistan. Both sides agreed on continued cooperation under Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity and noted that the framework provided the most comprehensive institutional mechanism to discuss all mutual issues. The two foreign ministers agreed that the next round of APAPPS would be soon held in Islamabad.

He maintained that peace and prosperity of Pakistan and Afghanistan being close neighbours was interlinked and stressed the need for their close collaboration for lasting regional peace.

Rabbani expressed best wishes of the government and people of Afghanistan for Pakistan and said he looked forward to strengthen Pak-Afghan bilateral relations, said a foreign ministry statement.

Both also welcomed the holding of joint Pak-Afghan Ulema Conference in Islamabad, the dates for which are being finalised. The issue of closure of the Pakistan Consulate General in Jalalabad due to a security crisis was also discussed, the statement said.

Qureshi requested the Afghan government to restore the previous security arrangements existing till August 28 so that the Consulate General’s normal functioning could be resumed at the earliest.

Foreign Minister Rabbani reassured a positive outcome soon in this regard and mentioned his meeting with the Ambassador of Pakistan in Kabul yesterday.

Till resolution of the issue, Pakistan would continue issuing visas to patients or students residing in the jurisdiction of the Consulate’s as an emergency measure.

Foreign Minister Rabbani also extended an invitation Foreign Minister Qureshi to visit Afghanistan at an early date, which he accepted.

This month 1, Pakistan had shut down its Consulate General in Jalalabad City in Nangarhar province for an indefinite period to protest local officials’ intervention in activities of the diplomatic office.

Pakistani embassy in Kabul said that the decision has been taken in reaction to provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat’s intervention in activities of the consulate.

“The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul deeply regrets undue intervention of Governor Hayatullah Hayat in the functioning of the Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Jalalabad is complete violation of the Vienna Convention of the Consular Relations 1963,” the embassy said. It said the Consulate General will remain closed until the security arrangements were completed to the satisfaction of the embassy.

The embassy said it has requested the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “kindly refrain the governor from interfering in the functioning of the Consulate General and to ensure restoration of security of the consulate office as it existed on August 28, 2018.”

Afghan authorities also met Pakistani officials over the matter and said that the issue was a simple misunderstanding and would be resolved soon.

Meanwhile, Qureshi met former Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon yesterday, who is on a six-day visit to Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

During the meeting, the Foreign Minister raised the issue of human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir especially in the context of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Report on the human rights situation in Kashmir which recommends the formation of a Commission of Inquiry.

Highlighting the Indian atrocities in Kashmir, the Foreign Minister said that since 1989, Indian occupation forces had killed nearly 100,000 Kashmiris; more than 100,000 children have been orphaned, 22,000 women have been widowed and nearly 11, 000 women have been raped by Indian occupation forces. 

Since 2016 alone, the Indian forces resorted to indiscriminate use of pellet guns and have mass blinded scores of Kashmiri civilians, including youth, women and children. The Foreign Minister said it was high time that the international community moves beyond rhetoric and takes meaningful steps in putting an immediate end to the gross and systematic human rights abuses in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

He reiterated that the only solution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute is to grant Kashmiris the legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Expressing support for the Kashmiri people, Rhiannon regretted that Jammu and Kashmir remains one of the longest unresolved disputes on the agenda of United Nations Security Council, which has taken its toll on the people of Kashmir.

She said the international community must take into account the findings of the OHCHR Report on Jammu and Kashmir.

Rhiannon iterated that peace and justice is indispensible for the region which can only be achieved with the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the aspirations of the people.  She reaffirmed her commitment to raise her voice against the blatant violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people.