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Ashraf Ghani not rejected Nawaz Sharif invitation to visit Pakistan: Afghan Ambassador

15 May, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on Sunday dispelled the impression that President Ashraf Ghani has rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s invitation to visit Pakistan.

Comments by Zakhilwal, who is also President Ghani’s special envoy for Pakistan, came following recent reports from Kabul that the Afghan president declined the invitation when the ISI chief met him last week.

Section of the Afghan media had earlier quoted “credible sources” as saying the president rejected the invitation and had also attached conditions that Pakistan should first take practical actions on Kabul’s certain demands.

Pakistani media also started debate on the reported rejection of PM’s invitation and some analyst argued that the three high level Pakistani visits to Afghanistan this month failed to reduce tension.

However, the Afghan ambassador said the impression about President Ghani’s visit is untrue.

“I confirm the Hon Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s statement that President Ashraf Ghani has not rejected the invitation to visit Pakistan. Instead, he rightly responded that the last visit by a leader to each other’s capital was made by him, visiting Islamabad in Dec 2015. It, therefore, was the Hon Prime Minister of Pakistan’s time to visit Kabul and that he would visit next,” Zakhilwal told Daily Times.

He said President Ghani has also endorsed the visit of a high-powered Afghan Parliamentary delegation to Islamabad following the visit by a similar delegation to Kabul from Pakistan headed by Ayaz Sadiq.

He threw weight behind bilateral visits and said, “sustained sincere and result oriented bilateral engagement between the government of our two countries is something that our government strongly believes in.”

Zakhilwal said more important visits will take place from Kabul to Islamabad as this is the way both countries should move forward. He, however, did not share any specific visit and that when it will take place.

When asked about the tension along the Chaman border, he hoped that the border will reopen soon, adding that the positive aspect was that both sides were able to quickly stop cross-border shelling in 15-minutes talks.

“It did not escalate further and lives were saved on both sides,” the Afghan ambassador said. “We are moving in right direction,” he said while referring to the recent interaction between the two sides. He opposed closure of the border, which he called Durand Line, under any excuse as it affects bilateral trade and movement of the people.

“Pakistan is the loser when the crossing points are closed. Their opening is more important for Pakistan as Afghanistan imports from Pakistan and Afghanistan is Pakistan’s market. When it is closed Pakistan loses and traders suffer,” Zakhilwal said.

He pleaded for tension-free relations between the two countries and said both should use opportunities to avoid mistakes in the future.

“There had been a lot of mistakes over the past one year and both have learnt a lot. 2016 was the worst year for bilateral relations and we hope 2017 will be better for bilateral relations.”

When asked about Afghan leaders’ unwillingness to agree with Pakistan’s quest for an effective border management, he said Kabul never shied away from discussions on issues.

“There are concerns in both countries about the presence of the armed opponents. Pakistan has concerns about India role in Afghanistan. There are any other issues and these need dialogue,” he said.

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