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Afghanistan, Pakistan and US locked in war of words

A Pakistani minister on March 27 branded the U.S. ambassador to Kabul a “little pygmy” in a Twitter dispute that erupted over the peace talks between Washington and the Afghan Taliban to end nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. appear to be locked in another war of words following reported remarks from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan suggesting setting up of an interim government in the war-ravaged country.

Khan, last week, also told reporters that Afghan Taliban wanted to meet him but he canceled the meeting on Kabul’s protest.

Afghanistan called back its ambassador to Pakistan on Tuesday for “consultation” over Pakistani premier’s remarks.

This was followed by a tweet by U.S. special envoy on Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad dubbing the comment inappropriate.

The fresh diplomatic row erupted days before Khalilzad is set to embark on another journey to the region in connection with Washington’s stepped up efforts to find a negotiated settlement of a bloody conflict in Afghanistan, which has entered its 18th year.

Also, U.S. envoy to Afghanistan John Bass, in a tweet, asked Pakistan’s cricketer-turned premier “not to ball-tamper with Afghanistan’s peace process and its internal affairs”.

Ball-tampering — a strictly prohibited and punishable act in cricket — means to change the ball shape by using nails or any other object to bowl out the batsman.

Pakistani officials took no time to respond to the U.S diplomat.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, in a tweet, challenged Bass’ knowledge about cricket — the most popular sport in South Asia.

“Your tweet shows you neither understand cricket nor diplomacy. With Afghan peace process at such a critical juncture, hope the U.S will be able to find better diplomatic skills to deal with the delicate issue at hand,” Umar said.

The Pakistani minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, tweeted in response: “Clearly you little pygmy your knowledge of ball tampering is as void as your understanding of Afghanistan and the region! Clearly in your case ignorance is certainly not bliss!”

Mazari called Bass’s comments “another sign of Trumpian mischief a la Khalilzad style!”

The rift comes as Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator in discussions with the Taliban, is heading back to the region.

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