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Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to target ‘irreconcilable’ Taliban

Ashraf Ghani and and Pakistani prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have agreed to take action against ‘irreconcilable’ Taliban insurgents, at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, last week.

Afghanistan has long been pressing Pakistan to take action against Taliban who has save havens in Pakistan and refuse to join the reconciliation process. On its part, Islamabad insists it cannot fight others’ war on own soil. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a previous statement had made it clear that his country was willing to help revive the stalled Afghan peace process but ‘could not bring Taliban to the negotiating table and be asked to kill them at the same time’.

Kabul insisted that Islamabad had agreed in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US to act against those Taliban who reject peace process. However, this has never been mentioned in joints statements issued after five meetings of the QCG, which has been almost dysfunctional since the killing of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike in May last year.

Hours after Foreign Office in Islamabad issued a statement about Sharif-Ghani meeting, Presidential Palace in Kabul shared its own version of the discussions in the nearly 45-minute meeting in Astana.

“The two leaders agreed that they would take all necessary measures against those groups who refuse to join the peace process,” Ghani’s office said in a statement posted on the official website. Pakistani statement had no mention of it but instead quoted PM Sharif as stressing on the ‘importance of reconciliation and a politically negotiated settlement as the best solution to the Afghan conflict’.

President Ashraf Ghani told Prime Minister Sharif that his government was ready for negotiations with the Taliban as it “has not only shown its will but also displayed its capacity to make peace as it did with the Hizb-i Islami.”

Ghani struck a landmark peace deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in September, who has now joined the mainstream politics after reappearing in April for the first time in 20 years.

“Taliban do not have more time as the patience of the Afghan people and the international community has been exhausted by their heinous acts of terror,” the statement quoted Afghan president as saying.

On his part, Prime Minister Sharif stressed the importance of reconciliation and a politically negotiated settlement as the best solution to the Afghan conflict.

Ghani and Nawaz also agreed to assign working teams to put together their plans to coordinate and intensify urgent measures to eliminate terrorist networks in their respective territories, the Kabul statement said.

“The two leaders agreed to intensify their joint and urgent efforts to fight terrorism in all of its forms that threaten the security and stability of the two countries, the region and beyond,” it added.

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