Ghani Visits Pakistan to Mend Ties

Ghani Visits Pakistan to Mend Ties Ghani Visits Pakistan to Mend Ties

New Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made his first state visit to neighboring Pakistan on Friday, kicking off a two-day trip aimed at rebuilding damaged ties and eradicating suspicions between the two countries.

Relations have been harmed by regular accusations from both countries that the other is harboring anti-government insurgents who cross the porous border and mount deadly attacks, Reuters reported.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said discussions between Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took power last year, would be wide-ranging.

“Peace and stability, everything to do with bilateral cooperation, political engagement, economic cooperation, the training program - everything is on the table,” she said.

One of Pakistan’s chief concerns is the growing influence of its arch rival India in Afghanistan as NATO troops pull out this year. India has trained hundreds of Afghan security officers under a bilateral agreement.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani military offered a brigade-level training package to the Afghan military. Such offers have been made before, but the Afghans declined amid suspicions that Pakistan was sheltering Afghan insurgents.

Ghani, who took power in September following a protracted dispute over the election results, has sought a larger role for China as a mediator in peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.

China enjoys good relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan, which also faces a Taliban insurgency, and is concerned about growing militancy in its Xinjiang region.

Aslam says Pakistan welcomes an expanded role for China and is awaiting any requests from the Afghan government that might help kick-start the moribund Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan has frequently requested custody of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former Afghan Taliban number two, who was captured in Pakistan in 2010. The Afghans think he could play a key role in any peace negotiations.

But Pakistan’s prime minister will have to carefully weigh such requests against domestic pressures at home.

Sharif has been weakened by political protests this year and a bruising run-in with the country’s powerful military, which traditionally regards foreign and security policy as its own domain.

  Khan, Qadri Arrest Warrants  

Meanwhile in Pakistan, opposition leaders reacted with outrage on Thursday after a court issued arrest warrants for a top politician and a firebrand cleric who led protests in the capital of Islamabad aiming to topple the government.

An anti-terrorism court issued the arrest warrants for opposition leader and former cricketer Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri late on Wednesday. The warrants accused their supporters of storming parliament and the state television building on Sept 1.

The warrants may provoke fresh unrest at a time when the country is struggling to rebuild its image.

Thousands of protesters led by Khan and Qadri demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over allegations of corruption and vote-rigging in the May 2013 polls.

The rallies turned deadly in September when demonstrators clashed with police in a central area near government buildings and embassies. Three people were killed.

“I have just heard the good news about my arrest warrant,” Khan said, addressing protesters late on Wednesday. “It will be easy for me to live in jail ... but I tell you, Nawaz Sharif, that you will have to pay a heavy price for my arrest.”

“This is a politically motivated, vengeful case against us,” Qadri’s party leader, Raheeq Abbasi, said. “The whole world knows that the PTV attack was a set-up.”

The demonstrations came at a difficult time for Pakistan, already plagued by an insurgency, sectarian tension and recurrent power shortages, with many people deeply unhappy with the government’s performance since it came to power.

Khan wants Sharif to step down because he believes the prime minister rigged the election. Sharif, who denies the charge, won the vote by a landslide, taking 190 of the 342 seats in the first democratic transfer of power in Pakistan’s history.