ISLAMABAD    -   Pakistan has asked Afghanistan not to play in the hands of India amid tensions in the region, officials said Sunday.

Senior government officials told The Nation that Pakistan had reminded Afghanistan about the peace efforts by Islamabad and the shelter Pakistan had provided to millions of refugees after the Soviet invasion.

“We have asked Afghanistan to keep the border peaceful to avoid any strong reaction by Pakistan. We cannot tolerate attacks from across the border. Afghanistan has been asked not to play in the hands of India. We (Pakistan) understand India is misguiding them (Afghanistan),” said one official.

Another official said that Pakistan had warned Afghanistan that “our leniency should not be mistaken for weakness.” Pakistan, he said, reserved the right to respond.

Over the weekend, Pakistan had summoned Afghan Charge d’Affaires to the Foreign Office and a strong demarche was made over the latest incident of firing on a Pakistan military contingent engaged in completion of fencing of Pak-Afghan border.

The Foreign Office underscored that the Afghan side was responsible for securing the areas on its side of the border, as mutually agreed on several occasions.

“Pakistan once again called upon the Afghan government to do the needful to secure the border areas, especially along the sensitive points, to maintain the level of cooperation needed to effectively counter terrorist elements in their areas,” said a foreign ministry statement.

The unprovoked firing resulted in the death of three Pakistani soldiers while seriously injuring one of them.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had recently promised to play a ‘more positive’ role in the Afghan peace process during his meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington.

The Afghan Taliban have been holding peace talks with the US for nearly a year but have refused to meet with the Afghan government, which they view as a puppet regime. This month, Trump cancelled talks with the Taliban after the killing of a US soldier in Afghanistan.

PM Khan and President Trump had agreed in July to bolster cooperation on Afghanistan to pressure Taliban militants to reach a peace deal.

Washington expects Islamabad to use its influence on the Taliban to force them to agree to a political settlement. The Taliban recently said they would visit Pakistan if PM Khan extends an invitation to them.

After coming to power, Trump had halted all so-called Foreign Military Sale support programs for Pakistan after accusing Islamabad of not helping Washington in achieving its objectives in Afghanistan. But lately, the US has taken a softer approach towards Pakistan and agreed to some important measures towards building confidence.

This year, Pakistan also decided to extend the stay of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 30, 2020. The decision by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions came during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and just before the June 30, 2019 deadline.

The two countries agreed to cooperate based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Prime Minister Khan previously said that Pakistan had “no favourite” in the upcoming presidential elections. The PM, who met a delegation of senior Afghan leaders leading different groups here in May, said Pakistan respected the Afghan people’s right to elect their leadership.

The Afghan leaders had participated in the Lahore Peace Process organised by the Lahore Centre for Peace and Research in Murree prior to President Ghani’s visit. 

Fifty-seven Afghan politicians, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, second deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, and presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram, had attended the peace conference in Pakistan.

The presidential election – tentatively scheduled for September 28 - will be a key moment to reaffirm the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s democratic political structure. There are significant operational and technical challenges to be overcome.

The Afghan government has announced to release almost 900 Taliban prisoners. So far, figures show that almost 400 of the prisoners have been released.