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Asia

Afghan peace negotiator cancels Pakistan visit

Top Afghan peace negotiator Salahuddin Rabbani has cancelled his Pakistan visit amid speculations that the Afghan government is unhappy with Islamabad's handling of a border shelling dispute.

On Thursday, the Afghan embassy in Islamabad confirmed that Salahuddin Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, had cancelled his Islamabad visit.

Rabbani was invited by Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf last month during his first Afghanistan tour as prime minister. Rabbani was expected to meet Pakistan's top civil and military leadership to seek assistance in the Afghan government's reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.

DW's correspondent Shakoor Rahim reported from Islamabad that Pakistan's foreign ministry was “unusually quiet” about the cancellation of Rabbani's trip. 

The Afghan embassy in Islamabad said in a statement that Rabbani had cancelled his trip because Kabul and Islamabad failed to agree on the agenda of Rabbani's meetings with Pakistani officials.

Cross-border attacks

Pakistani soldiers secure an area at the top of Kund mountain near South Waziristan

Four people were killed last month during shelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan

Of late, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been accusing each other of cross-border attacks. Afghanistan says Pakistan has been shelling its territory, threatening to report the border violation to the United Nations Security Council. Rahim said this could be one of the reasons why Rabbani chose not to visit Pakistan.

Sunbul Khan, an Islamabad-based Strategic Studies expert, insisted that the main dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan was about the border tension. She said the issue had become so serious in Afghanistan that the Afghan parliament had to sack the defense and interior ministers for failing to respond to alleged cross-border attacks from Pakistan.

"Pakistan should increase border security on its side of the border," said Khan.

Pakistan denies the allegations of shelling, calling them "incorrect."

"Pakistani troops only respond to and engage militants from where they are attacked or fired upon," one senior military official in Islamabad told the media.

"Pakistan may be shelling the militants' hideouts in Afghanistan but it must realize that a lot of innocent people are being killed in the process," Khan said, adding that the best way to resolve the conflict would be through negotiations.

Access to the Taliban leadership

An alleged Taliban commander Abdullah alias Abu Waqas, shown blindfolded in front of a CID Karachi banner

The Afghan government wants access to detained Taliban leaders

Islamabad-based defense analyst Tahir Khan told DW that apart from border tension, there were several unresolved issues between the two uneasy neighbors.

"The Afghan government demands that Pakistan must give access to detained Taliban leaders so that its officials could talk to them directly," Khan said, adding that the Afghan government had always accused Pakistan of assassinating the Taliban leaders that were willing to negotiate with Afghanistan.

Afghan government and the US have long accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) of supporting its favorite Taliban factions to use them as a bargaining chip while dealing with Kabul and Washington.

Media reports say that it was expected that Rabbani would demand the release of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who the Afghan government thinks could help in reconciliation with the Taliban. The Pakistani authorities arrested Baradar in February 2010. Baradar is believed to be the most influential Taliban leader after chief Mullah Omar.

Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Charlotte Collins

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