|[Published: Friday November 20 2020]
In ‘historic' first visit to Kabul, Pakistan's PM vows to help stem bloodshed
KABUL, 20 Nov. - (ANA) - Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 19 visited neighboring Afghanistan, where he vowed to help reduce escalating violence and push for a cease-fire between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Khan's visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, his first as prime minister, comes amid a wave of violence across Afghanistan that has flared despite peace talks that began in Qatar in September between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
"We notice with concern that the level of violence despite the talks in Qatar ... is rising," Khan told reporters outside the Afghan presidential palace after talks with President Ashraf Ghani.
"Pakistan will do everything, whatever is possible, we will do to help reduce this violence and in fact move toward a cease-fire," Khan pledged.
"We, the people and government of Pakistan, have only one concern, and that concern is ... that we want peace" in Afghanistan, he said.
Diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been tense, with Kabul accusing its eastern neighbor of meddling in Afghan domestic affairs, aiding the Taliban, and deliberately destabilizing the country.
Islamabad has long denied such claims, though many senior Taliban leaders live in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta and militants have in the past enjoyed relatively smooth movement across the border.
Ghani, whose repeated calls for a cease-fire have been rejected by the Taliban, hailed Khan's visit as "historic" and reiterated the need for an immediate truce.
"You come with a with a series of very important messages ... but fundamental to this is that violence is not an answer, a comprehensive political settlement for an enduring peace within the framework of our values, our Constitution in the Islamic Republic is the way to the future," Ghani told Khan at the presidential palace.
Khan's trip is the highest profile visit by a Pakistani official to Kabul since intra-Afghan peace talks began in the Qatari capital, Doha.
It also comes days after the United States said it would cut the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.
President Donald Trump, who is due to leave office on January 20 after losing this month's presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden, is seeking to end the U.S. presence in the 19-year war in Afghanistan, the United States' longest conflict.
Before Khan's arrival, Dawa Khan Minapal, a spokesman for Ghani, said the main purpose of the visit would be bilateral trade and economic relations, but the fight against militancy in the region would also be at the top of the agenda.
Khan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the chief of the influential Inter-Services Intelligence Faiz Hamid, and other senior officials.
Washington's special representative for Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, has a made a number of trips to Islamabad to discuss the peace process.
Ghani last visited Pakistan in June 2019.
Violence has remained high in Afghanistan despite the ongoing peace process.
Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said that in the past six months Taliban militants have carried out 53 suicide attacks while 1,210 civilians were among the thousands killed in violence linked to the insurgency. - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/20 November 2020 - - -