After days of talking tough on Afghanistan in the aftermath of recent militant attacks, the Pakistan Army on Monday spoke about fighting terrorism jointly with Afghanistan.
The change in mood at the military headquarters coincided with the receipt of a demarche from the Afghan foreign ministry demanding arrest and handover of 85 leaders of Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups and action against 32 alleged terrorist training centres, besides a warning that continued violence would push Kabul to seek international sanctions against “terrorist groups and their supporters”.
The Afghan demands came after Pakistan handed over a similar list of 76 Pakistani terrorists based in Afghanistan.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a statement issued after what was described as a ‘high-level security meeting at GHQ’ chaired by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, said: “Pakistan and Afghanistan have fought against terrorism and shall continue this effort together”.
Kabul says it has delivered a list of 32 terror camps on Pakistani soil
The comments clearly contrasted with the earlier tone which bordered on unilateralism. The military had soon after the suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan closed down border crossings with Afghanistan and the troops pounded ‘terrorist targets’ along the border. Gen Bajwa had himself told US commander in Afghanistan Gen Nicholson that the Afghan government’s inaction against terrorists was testing Pakistan’s policy of cross-border restraint.
Media reports also said that Pakistan had sent reinforcements to the border and deployed heavy armaments.
ISPR quoted Gen Bajwa as explaining at the meeting that “enhanced security arrangements along Pak-Afghan border were for fighting common enemy”. He also repeated the oft-mentioned refrain of targeting “terrorists of all hue and colour”.
Gen Bajwa issued directives for cooperation with Afghan forces in checking “illegal movements” and welcomed Afghan proposal for cooperation against terrorism.
Responding to Pakistan’s demand for action against 76 terrorists who have taken up sanctuaries in Afghanistan, the Afghan presidency had reminded Islamabad of an agreement reached during Quadrilateral Coordination Group talks about fighting terror and sought its implementation.
Meanwhile, the Afghan foreign ministry said it hoped to cooperatively work with Islamabad against terrorism under the Quadrilateral framework that also included the United States and China.
It said it delivered a list of 85 Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders and 32 terror camps on Pakistani soil, which it claimed were involved in “crimes against people of Afghanistan”.
It said Pakistan had positively received the Afghan lists and expected that action would be taken against people and facilities of concern to it.
Alluding to Pakistan’s support for relaxation of UN sanctions against Taliban, the Afghan foreign ministry said it would push for further sanctions against “terror groups and their supporters” through the UN and other international fora.
In the meantime, Afghan defence ministry has described Pakistani shelling of the border areas as an “act of aggression” and called for resolution of the issue through “diplomatic means”.