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After a long break Pak-Afghan talks resumed

28 April, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan have revived high-level bilateral contacts after a long break. Senior Pakistani military officials met top Afghan defence officials in Kabul on Thursday and stressed that "terrorists are common threat and shall be defeated," the military said.

The delegation, headed by Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, is visiting Afghanistan on the direction of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The delegation met Afghanistan's acting Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahramee and the Afghan Army Chief Gen Muhammad Sharif Yaftali, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

The delegation assured Kabul that the Pakistan Army had control of all areas of the Pakistani side of the border and would not let its soil be used against Afghanistan.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq is also scheduled to travel to Kabul on Saturday as head of a parliamentary delegation, the assembly's spokesman Muhammad Moshin Iqbal said. The Foreign Office spokesman and the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul have also confirmed the visit.

"Such visits are a manifestation of desire to strengthen relations between the two countries and, particularly, enhancing parliamentary and people to people exchanges," spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at his weekly briefing. Afghan government agreed to invite the Pakistani delegations after hectic discussions in Islamabad and Kabul that also involved Pakistani Pashtoon politicians and the Afghan ambassador Omar Zakhilwal.

Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai had visited Kabul and met President Ashraf Ghani as part of the efforts to bridge the trust gap. There was no official word on Achakzai's visit to Kabul. However, two PkMAP leaders confirmed the visit. Ambassador Zakhilwal had also hosted the Pakhtoon leaders at his residence in Islamabad and a meeting was also hosted by Aftab Sherpao, who heads the Pak-Afghan parliamentary group in the National Assembly.

Afghan sources say that the visit of the Pakistani parliamentary speaker could lead to the visit to Islamabad by the Afghan Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah. An official invitation to Dr Abdullah by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been pending for long. Political leaders and the Afghan ambassador had also reached an understanding that former President Hamid Karzai should also visit Islamabad. The PM had extended an invitation to Karzai last year. However, the visits have not taken place due to deterioration in ties.

Pakistani and Afghan sources told reporters that the Britain-brokered talks in London in mid-March proved to be have broken the ice. The series of terrorist attacks in Pakistan in February was a serious blow to the already tense relationship as security officials insisted that the militants groups behind the attacks had planned the attacks from the Afghan side of the border. The attacks, including the suicide bombing at the Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine in Sindh, had killed nearly 100 people.

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