Kabul renews pledge to curb cross-border terrorism: FO

The Foreign Office on Thursday said Afghanistan’s de facto government has renewed its commitment to rein in cross-border terrorism and hoped that the Taliban administration would live up to its pledge.

“We have received some assurances and have held some important consultations with the Afghan authorities. We hope that the Afghan interim government will fulfil the commitments that it has made to Pakistan in terms of security,” FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at the weekly media briefing.

The remarks, made in response to media questions, come against the backdrop of spate of recent terrorism incidents in the country, believed to have been planned and directed by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders based in Afghanistan, including the incident at the Counter-Terrorism Department’s interrogation facility in Bannu.

“We have certain mechani­sms with Afghanistan in which we engage to discuss these iss­ues. We will continue to engage with them to ensure that the Afg­han authorities fulfil the commitments that they have made to Pakistan that Afghan territory will not be used to des­t­a­bilise or to threaten Pakistan’s security,” she said.

Bannu stand-off underscored Pakistan’s resurgent terrorism problem. The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban, has executed around 115 attacks so far this year, most of which happened after August this year when the group’s peace talks with the Pakistan government began to falter. The ceasefire was formally ended last month by the TTP.

The group that has been involved in terrorism for 15 years and executed some of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history, including the one on Army Public School, Peshawar, in December 2014 had been weakened by successive counter-terrorism operations and many of its fighters and commanders fled to neighbouring Afghanistan.

Islamabad had been pressing successive governments in Kabul to take action against the TTP and other militants based in Afghanistan. While the previous governments turned a deaf ear to Pakistani pleadings, the Afghan Taliban persuaded Islamabad to hold peace talks with the militants.

The peace talks that began last year broke down twice and nothing substantive was achieved by Pakistan, but it helped the TTP secure release of some of its detained leaders, while allowing a large number of its Afghanistan-based fighters to relocate here.

TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud’s message in the middle of hostage crisis in Bannu this week left little doubt that the group’s leaders were directing terrorist attacks from their hideouts in Afghanistan.

“I congratulate you for carrying out this sacred act. I instruct you not to surrender to these infidels and apostates under any circumstances,” Mehsud said while addressing the hostage takers in Bannu in an audio message, according to VoA.

The FO spokesperson pointed to engagement with other count­r­ies as well on the issue of terrorism threat emanating from Afghanistan as she said: “We are engaged with international partners, including our neighbour Afghanistan, to ensure that terrorist groups do not threaten Pakistan’s security.”

Ms Baloch did not specify any particular international partner with which Pakistan is engaging on this particular terrorist threat.

Commander of US Central Command (Centcom) Gen Michael Kurilla, who visited Pakistan last week for meetings with the Pakistani military leadership, it should be recalled, toured Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, besides his meetings in Islamabad, to discuss the security situation along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s other major concern is the recent border incidents involving Taliban forces.

Ms Baloch, meanwhile, emphasised that despite these irritants Islamabad will remain engaged with the Taliban administration, which is still not internationally recognised.

“Pakistan prioritises dialogue and finding constructive solutions. That has always been our policy. We also want to find constructive solution to the current situation that we are facing, through dialogue,” she said.

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