Pak and Afghanistan hold 'mini-jirga' on violence

Pakistani and Afghan officials and tribal leaders met for talks in Islamabad on Monday to find ways to end mounting Taliban and Al-Qaeda violence along their troubled border. The two-day meeting has been dubbed a "mini-jirga" as it is a smaller follow-up to a traditional "jirga" or tribal meeting held between the two feuding neighbours in August 2007. "Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are faced with terrorism and together they need to face the challenge," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the start of the session. The meeting features 50 members 25 from each side including government officials, representatives of political parties and members of the ethnic Pashtun tribes that straddle the Afghan-Pakistan border. Afghanistan's hardline Islamist Taliban militia, which ruled that country from 1996-2001, and a newer grouping of Pakistani Taliban militants are both effectively Pashtun groups. Violence has soared on both sides of the border, with Washington and Kabul urging Islamabad to tackle militant "safe havens" in Pakistan's tribal belt. Pakistan has also suffered a wave of suicide attacks. Tribesmen on the Pakistani side have recently set up a number of tribal armies to counter the growing militant influence in the area, while Pakistani troops launched a two-month operation in the Bajaur tribal region in August. "Today Pakistan is more committed than ever not to allow anybody to use its territory for activities against any other country," said Pakistan's Qureshi. He also vowed that foreign fighters Pakistani jargon for Al-Qaeda would be expelled but at the same time the "sovereignty of Pakistan will be protected at all cost." The sovereignty issue relates to an increase in controversial US missile strikes in Pakistan, the latest of which killed a Taliban commander and 15 other people on Sunday night, according to officials. The leader of the Afghan delegation, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, said terrorism was a global challenge but "unfortunately both countries are at its centre." "Both are moving together to meet the challenge," he said. The "Jirgagai (mini-jirga) would be instrumental in shaping up the ways to tackle rising militant violence," the deputy chairman of the Afghanistan Jirga Monitoring Commission, Farooq Wardag, was quoted as saying by the official Associated Press of Pakistan. State media here said the meeting will form a committee to forward proposals to the two countries' governments.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt