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Pakistan protests Afghan shelling
 
 
 

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Monday registered a strong protest with Afghanistan’s ambassador over unprovoked cross-border shelling by the Afghan troops that killed at least four people.The late Sunday incident came just as a delegation of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council was preparing to travel to Islamabad to meet Pakistani political and military leaders for talks on peace in their war torn country.Four civilians were killed in Nez Naarai village, in Shawal area of South Waziristan, when Afghan forces fired mortar shells from across the border,” a security official based in Peshawar told a foreign news agency.Another official said the victims were collecting wood and were hit by the mortar shells as they loaded it into a vehicle. Two children were among those killed, he added.As the delegation led by Salahuddin Rabbani was to hold meetings with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other officials on Monday, the Afghan ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office and a démarche was handed to him.Condemning the attacks, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said that such attacks are unhelpful and unproductive, and would only vitiate the conducive environment that Pakistan is trying to create for promotion of peace and stability in the region.He also strongly urged the Afghan government to take appropriate measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents in future. Jilani warned that such incidents could affect the stability in Afghanistan. Earlier the same day, he told the media that Pakistan had serious reservations with cross border shelling and militant infiltration from Afghanistan.Speaking on the occasion of inauguration of a two-day regional anti-narcotics ministerial level conference in Islamabad, the foreign secretary said, “Afghan council Chief Salahuddin Rabbani’s visit to Pakistan is of great significance for the success of reconciliation process in Afghanistan.”Meanwhile, Salahuddain Rabbani along with members of his delegation called on Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at the Prime Minister’s House Monday evening and discussed with him matters of bilateral interests. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the foreign secretary and other government officials were also present during the meeting.Welcoming the delegation, the prime minister said that the people of Pakistan had a special place for late Burhanuddin Rabbani, the father of Salahuddain, whose assignation had marred the previous peace stint as Afghan government said the suicide attack on the former chief of the peace council had originated from Pakistan. But Pakistan said the assassination was carried out by the Afghan refugees and the state had nothing to do with it.Prime Minister Raja Asharaf expressed the hope that the delegation during its current visit would hold discussions with Pakistani officials, which will pave the way for closer relations between the two countries. The PM said that there is consensus in Pakistan that both Afghanistan and Pakistan should work together for peace in the region.Salahuddin thanked the prime minister for inviting the High Peace Council to Pakistan. He said that the people of Afghanistan are grateful to the people of Pakistan for the assistance extended to them during their struggle against Soviet Union.Referring to the attack on Malala Yousafzai, the prime minister said “the whole world has been shaken by the Malala incident”. Salahuddin Rabbani said that the attack on the 14-year-old innocent schoolgirl shows how powerful the attackers have become.The prime minister said that both the countries have to work together and leave a legacy for our coming generations which is peaceful. He assured the Afghan delegation that the government of Pakistan will do all what it takes for a peaceful Afghanistan. Dilating on the incidents of shelling on the borders both the leaders agreed that there should be increased coordination between the two countries to stop such incidents in future.In recent months, shelling across the 2,400-km-long porous mountainous frontier which militants can easily penetrate, has raised tensions and in early October a senior Afghan general visited Islamabad to discuss the issue but things have not improved much on this count.Pakistan has also been raising the issue of militant infiltration from Afghanistan but to no avail. Security officials in Pakistan believe that Afghan government is providing sanctuaries to the anti-Pakistan insurgents in Nuristan and Kunar from where they launch attacks inside Pakistan.The Afghan delegation would meet Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, President Asif Ali Zardari and military leadership today (Tuesday) to push forward the stalled peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.According to the informed sources, the Afghan delegation has brought some proposals about Pakistan’s crucial role to help establish lasting peace in Afghanistan. These proposals would be dished out during meeting of the Afghan team with Foreign Minister Khar. The Afghan delegation is also expected to seek release of some Taliban detained by Pakistan. The task of High Peace Council has gained urgency as most Nato combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of 2014 and hand over security to Afghan government forces. Lack of progress has fuelled fears of a civil war and some Afghans worry the Taliban will try and seize power again if no comprehensive political settlement is reached before then.Sources hoped that Islamabad which supports a peace process owned and led by Afghans can play not only the role of a facilitator but can also persuade Afghan insurgent groups, including the Haqqani network, to pursue peace.However, some of the Pakistani diplomatic sources were worried that resistance from political factions opposed to the Taliban in Afghanistan could undermine reconciliation efforts. They were of the view that some former leaders of Northern Alliance who fought against Taliban were still reluctant to engage Taliban to forge a peace deal.Kabul set up the peace council in 2010 to negotiate an end to the decade-long war. Rabbani was named the council chief after his predecessor, his father Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in Sept 2011 by a suicide bomber who purported to be a Taliban peace envoy. Peace talks were derailed then as Afghan officials lashed out at Islamabad over the killing.Earlier this year in August, a similar visit by the peace council chief was put off following tensions between the two countries over cross-border shelling. A trilateral meeting of senior US, Pakistani and Afghan officials in New York in September reviewed proposals to help an Afghan-led reconciliation process. President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as Salahuddin Rabbani attended the meeting. According to reports, the invitation for Rabbani’s visit was renewed during the trilateral summit. In August, senior officials from both countries said Afghan officials have held secret talks with the Taliban’s former second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is in detention in Pakistan.

 
 
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