Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his maiden visit to Kabul and vowed to "do everything" to reduce violence in Afghanistan as the two leaders explored ways to deepen the bilateral ties and discussed the reconciliation process, amidst an uptick in violence that could jeopardise the peace push in the war-torn country.
President Ghani who received Khan upon his arrival at ARG Presidential Palace, situated in the heart of Kabul, called his visit "historic" and said it was an "important message to help end violence".
On his part, Khan assured Ghani that his government would do "everything possible" to help reduce violence in Afghanistan and bring a durable peace.
"The idea of visiting at a time when violence is increasing (in Afghanistan) is to assure you, President Ghani, that the people and the government of Pakistan have only one concern: peace in Afghanistan, Khan said while addressing a joint press conference with the Afghan leader after their talks on issues ranging from bilateral ties to the Afghan peace and regional situation.
Khan said Pakistan played a role in the peace deal signed between the Taliban and the US side and later on starting the intra-Afghan dialogue. He regretted that despite such efforts violence was increasing in Afghanistan and assured that Pakistan was ready to help if it was possible.
"If you feel there is somewhere Pakistan can help (in reduction of violence), please let us knowWe assure you that we will do everything and whatever is within our reach," he said.
Khan said that Pakistan's tribal areas were devastated by the violence in the past and it was one of the reasons to help Afghanistan tackle violence. "The only way to help people on both sides of the border is by peace, trade and connectivity," he said.
He said peace and connectivity was the best way to ensure prosperity of Pakistan, Afghanistan and also the entire region.
"Now again to build trust, we will help the Afghan government to meet their expectations," Khan said as he thanked Ghani for extending an invitation to visit Afghanistan.
Ghani said that enduring peace within the framework of joint cooperation was important to lead towards a comprehensive ceasefire. "All of us need to understand that violence is not an answer, but an inclusive politics," he said.
He also said that he would visit Pakistan in near future.
Officials said the two leaders discussed ways to further deepen the bilateral ties, the Afghan peace process and regional economic development and connectivity. They agreed to strengthen bilateral relations as the people of the two countries were linked through immutable bonds of history, faith, culture, kinship, values and traditions.
Khan expressed confidence that his visit would help foster a stronger and multi-faceted relationship between the two brotherly countries.
Earlier, Khan was received by Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Afghan President's Special Representative for Pakistan Mohammad Umer Daudzai upon his arrival at Kabul airport on his maiden trip to Afghanistan since assuming office in 2018.
Khan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood and Special Representative for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq.
His visit is the highest-profile trip by a Pakistani official to Kabul since peace talks began between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha.
It comes days after the Pentagon announced it would reduce the number of US military personnel in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. However, neither of the leaders addressed the issue of the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan during their joint press conference.
The announcement came as there has been an uptick in violence, with the Taliban continuing to carry out attacks targeting government leaders, security forces, and civilians.
Khan's visit is being billed as a symbol of increasing confidence between the two countries, triggered by Pakistan's role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table, after years of acrimony between Islamabad and Kabul. President Ghani last visited Pakistan in June 2019.
The two leaders had a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 14th Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Mecca in May 2019. Khan had a telephonic conversation with Ghani in September 2020.
There were other important visits recently from Afghanistan to Pakistan including one by the Chairman High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah in September.
During his visit, Abdullah had said that Pakistan and Afghanistan should shun the suspicion and go beyond the usual "stale rhetoric" and "shadowy conspiracy theories" that have held them back.
Pakistan has come under international criticism for its support for some militant groups and opposition to others. While Pakistan's military and politicians say that policy has been relegated to the past, Islamabad's neighbours remain suspicious.
Afghanistan and the US have in the past blamed Pakistan for providing safe havens to elements of the terror network, a charge Islamabad denies.
In its 26th report, the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIS, al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities earlier this year said that an estimated 6,000-6,500 Pakistani terrorists are in Afghanistan, most of them with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, posing a threat to both the countries.
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