ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan and Afghanistan aim to engage in a new partnership amid improving trust level as Islamabad is set to receive Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani today (June 27).

The Afghan President will pay a two day visit to Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including ministers, advisors, senior officials and businessmen.

A foreign ministry statement said: “During the visit, President Dr Arif Alvi will have a meeting with President Ghani while Prime Minister Imran Khan will hold delegation-level talks.

The wide-ranging talks between the two sides would focus on strengthening bilateral cooperation in diverse areas – including political, trade, economic, security, peace and reconciliation, education and people-to-people exchanges.”

It added: “President Ghani will also travel to Lahore where he will participate in a business forum attended by business representatives from both countries.”

This is President Ghani’s third visit to Pakistan and follows the recently held first review session of the landmark Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.

Other important bilateral exchanges in recent weeks include the telephonic call between President Ghani and Prime Minister Imran Khan, bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Summit in Makkah, and visits of Afghan National Security Adviser and Minister for Refugees to Pakistan.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Khan 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, said Pakistan respected the Afghan People’s right to elect their leadership.

“It’s not Pakistan but the Afghan people who have to decide the outcome of the elections (in Afghanistan).  Pakistan has no favourite. We are neutral” the premier was quoted as saying by an official who attended the meeting.

The Afghan leaders earlier took part in the Lahore Peace Process organised by the Lahore Centre for Peace and Research in Murree.  Fifty-seven Afghan politicians, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, Afghan Second Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, and presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram, attended the peace conference in Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the meeting was a “complementary” of peace efforts in Doha, Moscow and other countries. 

Afghan presidential candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar said he welcomed the meeting in Pakistan and that it was a good platform for the exchange of views between Afghan politicians and Pakistani officials.  Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also welcomed efforts for promoting peace in Afghanistan.

This month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had announced he will visit Pakistan on June 27 to open a new chapter in his country’s uneasy relationship with its neighbour and mend ties that are often characterised by mistrust and tit-for-tat accusations.

Ghani said he agreed to visit Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan after the two leaders met this month on the sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Saudi Arabia. “I hope the visit will be positive,” he added.

The presidential election scheduled for 28 September 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.