Pakistan reports rare progress in tense ties with Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed for the first time to place “liaison officers” at each other’s military headquarters for better security coordination, and Islamabad is awaiting a formal response from Kabul to its proposal for opening a wide-ranging bilateral dialogue.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal, at his weekly news conference in Islamabad on Thursday, discussed the rare progress in a relationship traditionally plagued by suspicion and mistrust, reported Voice of America (VOA).

He revealed the proposal entitled “Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity” – or APAPS – was shared with Afghan officials on November 25. The document offers a comprehensive plan for “constructive and meaningful” engagement between the two countries through working groups in areas of politics, economy, military, intelligence sharing and refugee issues, explained the spokesman.

“A formal reply from the government of Afghanistan in this context is awaited,” said Faisal. He added that the proposal was floated in early October following a meeting between Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.

While the Afghan government has not yet publicly discussed the Pakistani proposal, Faisal welcomed Ghani’s recently published comment in which the Afghan leader acknowledged receiving the document and indicating it could provide a basis for bilateral dialogue.

The spokesman also credited Bajwa’s visit for groundbreaking talks between top military commanders of the two countries hosted by Pakistan on November 30.

“During that meeting the two sides agreed to place liaison officers at each other’s army headquarters and also establish ground coordination centres, or GCCs,” Faisal added.

The spokesman also said Islamabad has not yet decided whether to extend the stay of more than 3 million Afghans in Pakistan, including documented refugees and illegal economic migrants.

“The validity of the current proof of residence cards is due to expire on December 31, 2017. The government is contemplating all options to extend the validity of the cards or not. So far, no decision has been made,” he said.

Pakistan blames the refugee population for serving as havens for members of the Afghan Taliban and anti-state militants within the country. Foreign Ministry officials say that without repatriating the displaced families to Afghanistan and strengthening border controls on the Afghan side, terrorist infiltration will keep causing mutual tension.


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