ISLAMABAD/Kabul - Islamabad and Kabul on Tuesday resolved to work together for regional peace and stability with Pakistan condemning the recent surge in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and declared the so-called ‘Operation Azm’ of Afghan Taliban as acts of terrorism.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged support to Afghanistan in its fight against the Taliban during a visit to Kabul, the latest sign of a thaw in their once-frosty relationship.

“I can assure you that the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be the friends of Pakistan,” Nawaz Sharif said, addressing President Ashraf Ghani.

On the occasion, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “The criterion for friendship is that a friend stands by a friend in very tough situations.”

In his reply, Nawaz Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s full support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.

He also assured the Afghan president of Pakistan’s continued engagement with regional and international processes in support of his country.

The prime minister said as co-chair of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process during 2015, Pakistan would steer the process in line with the Afghan priorities and aspirations.

He said wide-ranging consultations on issues relating to the common challenges and the significant opportunities ahead were discussed.

“Any effort by any militant or group to destabilise Afghanistan will be dealt with severely and such elements will be outlawed and hunted down,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during his one-day visit to Kabul.

According to senior Pakistani officials who accompanied the prime minister quoted him having said that all sanctuaries, when found, will be eliminated by direct action and monitored by the existing mechanism, assuring the Afghan leadership that enemies of Afghanistan cannot be friends of Pakistan.

“We stand in strong solidarity by Afghanistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, adding Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to strengthen their relations by following the principle of non-interference and not allowing their respective territories to be used against each other.

The prime minister expressed the confidence that Pakistan and Afghanistan will succeed in rooting out terrorism through their firm determination and by adopting a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.

He said Pakistan has the highest stake in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and Kabul and Islamabad have also agreed to the point that enemy of one country will be treated as enemy of the two countries.

He reaffirmed Pakistan’s full support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process and assured the Afghan President of making all possible efforts in this regard. He said in case of a terrorist activity, both Pakistan and Afghanistan retain the right of counter actions in conjunction.

Nawaz Sharif, who led a high-powered civil-military delegation to Kabul, reiterated an offer for the capacity building of the Afghan police, including training, adding coordinated operations would be planned and conducted on mutually agreed basis to target militant hideouts along the border.

Nawaz said during talks the two sides discussed ways of realising the full potential of their well-endowed reservoir of human and material resources. These include expanding trade, increasing investments, improving infrastructure, building road and rail links and enhancing energy collaboration.

He underlined Pakistan’s resolve to further deepen defence and security partnership with Afghanistan.

He said he assured the Afghan president of Pakistan’s continued engagement with regional and international processes in support of Afghanistan.

The prime minister said he was delighted to visit Kabul and again meet his friends and brothers. He was gratified at the warm-hearted reception and generous hospitality that was characteristic of the Afghan people. “It is always a pleasure to be in Afghanistan and among my Afghan brethren. Coming to Afghanistan is like coming to my second home. I have brought with me the most cordial greetings of the people of Pakistan for their Afghan brethren.”

The prime minister also reaffirmed his commitment to continue working with President Ashraf Ghani for prosperity and development of the two peoples and in advancing shared objectives of peace and stability in the region. He concluded by raising the slogan of “Pak-Afghan Dosti Painda baad.”

President Ghani, while stressing further closer cooperation between the two brotherly countries, said both had suffered due to terrorism which posed a common threat.

The specter of terrorism had targeted the children in Peshawar and on Afghan soil, and both the countries had to confront it jointly, he added.

President Ghani also emphasised that enemies of Pakistan were the enemies of Afghanistan. Ghani said Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing similar threats and will have to fight them out jointly, adding Enemy of Pakistan is enemy of Afghanistan.

Earlier, Nawaz Sharif also held talks with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul. They discussed different aspects of bilateral relations and regional situation. Delegation-level talks were also held between Pakistan and Afghanistan at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

During the delegation-level talks, Pakistan agreed to start construction of multi-million dollars Torkham-Jalalabad Dual Carriage Way project. Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) has been directed to start work within one week.  

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, ISI Director General Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Military Operations Director General Maj-Gen Amer Riaz, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and senior officials were part of delegation.