Afghanistan used to launch attacks on Pakistan – Defence minister

Pakistan’s defence minister has alleged that Afghanistan’s soil was being used by armed groups to launch attacks on his country, prompt­ing a sharp response from Taliban government in Kabul which called the allegation “incorrect” and “regretta­ble”.

“We have spoken to the Afghan­istan government and we will keep saying that … their soil is being used for cross-border terrorism,” Khwaja Asif told a private news channel on Monday night.

Asif’s remarks came shortly after Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, newly appointed military chief General, Asim Munir, and other top officials attended a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) in the capital, Islamabad.

A statement issued by the govern­ment after the NSC meeting said “no country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries to terrorists” and their attacks “will be dealt with full force of the state”.

The NSC’s statement did not name any country, but it was an apparent reference to neighbouring Afghan­istan, whose government denies the allegations as “provocative and baseless”.

In response to the two statements, Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban government in Afghan­istan, on Tuesday said “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants good relations with all its neighboring countries, including Pakistan,” using the name Taliban has given to the country.

“The Islamic Emirate is trying its best that the territory of Afghanistan is not used against Pakistan or any other country. We are committed to this goal, but the Pakistani side is also responsible to try controlling the situation, refrain from giving baseless statements and provocative assertions, because such statement and mistrust is not in the interest of either side,” it added.

The exchange of words between Pakistan and Afghanistan officials follows a series of recent attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an armed group also known as Pakistani Taliban because of its ideological affinity with the Afghan Taliban.

The TTP has been waging a re­bellion against the state of Pakistan for more than a decade. The group demands the imposition of their hard line interpretation of Islamic law, the release of its members arrested by the government, and a reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In 2022 alone, Pakistan’s monitor­ing agencies recorded more than 150 attacks launched by the TTP across the country, killing dozens of people. Authorities fear the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan has emboldened the TTP and led to its resurgence.

In November, the armed group unilaterally ended an Afghan Taliban-brokered ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani government and ordered its fighters to carry out attacks across the country.

In his interview with the news channel, Asif invoked the Doha accord the Taliban signed with the United States in February 2020 to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

As part of the pact, the Taliban committed to not allowing any armed group to use Afghanistan’s soil to launch attacks on another nation. As US and NATO troops began to leave in August 2021, the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Sharif, said Pakistan will “adopt zero tolerance policy for terrorists challenging its writ”. “Peace is non-negotiable,” he wrote.

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