Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali is in Kabul today for his first official visit to Afghanistan. The trip comes as Pakistan continues a military operation in its autonomous tribal regions near its border with Afghanistan aimed at capturing Islamic militants.
Prague, 12 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Pakistan's Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali pledged during a visit to Kabul today that he will increase security along the border with Afghanistan and enhance cooperation in what he calls a "joint fight against terrorism."
Jamali made the promise during talks with Afghan Transitional Authority Chairman Hamid Karzai that lasted about two hours. He repeated the pledge at a joint press conference with Karzai.
"God willing, Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long way to go and we will go together. The fight against terrorism, yes, Afghanistan has suffered. Now, unfortunately, it has traveled the way to Pakistan also. So it has to be a joint effort to fight against extremism, terrorism and, more so, the extremism in terrorism," Jamali said.
Karzai said that he and Jamali discussed the need to fight terrorism together until it is eradicated from the region. "This fight against terrorism will be increased, and the Pakistani government has ensured us that their fight against terrorism continues on all fronts and it will be complete," he said.
Karzai also pledged to cooperate with Pakistan as it continues operations aimed at capturing or eliminating the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from Pakistan. "It's recognized in Pakistan and it's recognized in Afghanistan that the fight against terrorism is a joint fight," he said. "It's for the future of both countries and for the future of this region. And eventually, for the future of the international community as a whole."
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan deteriorated last year after gun battles were reported between military forces from both sides in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar.
But Karzai told RFE/RL yesterday that relations have improved dramatically since their low point last year when an angry mob of Afghans ransacked Pakistan's embassy in Kabul in response to reports of cross-border skirmishes. "In the last few months, the situation has been getting better and I am happy about that," he said.
Still, Karzai says Pakistan has a responsibility to prevent Islamic militants in Pakistan from crossing into Afghanistan and conducting attacks that could threaten the final stage of the internationally backed Bonn process -- presidential elections scheduled for next June.
"It is a reality that fundamentalism has come to Afghanistan from the other side [of the Pakistan border]. We have talked with President Pervez Musharraf about this and I will continue to talk about this matter in the future," Karzai said.
In fact, today's talks were conducted against the backdrop of an ongoing military operation by Pakistan against Islamic militants in the autonomous tribal regions of Pakistan along the Afghan border.
Afghanistan has complained repeatedly that remnants of the Taliban regime have taken shelter in the tribal regions of Pakistan and are using the rugged mountains there to launch attacks into southern and southeastern Afghanistan.
Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who also was at today's meeting, repeated the complaint in an interview with RFE/RL yesterday. "Afghanistan's people and government expect the government of neighboring Pakistan to try to stop the Taliban leadership -- who are sheltering in Pakistan -- from causing the security situation in Afghanistan to deteriorate," he said.
Pakistan's tribal areas also are thought to be a possible hiding place for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who allegedly masterminded the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.
Jamali today addressed the issue of cross-border movement by the remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: "We want to ensure and try our best that there is no criss-cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan or from Pakistan to Afghanistan on these issues. These are some of the measures that we have taken and we will keep on increasing it, keep on making it better and keep on making it stronger."
In the area of assistance for reconstruction in Afghanistan, Jamali says Pakistan is offering to build a railway that links the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to Pakistan's southwestern border city of Chaman.
He said Pakistan has promised to complete the construction of a highway link between the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and Pakistan's Torkham border crossing before June 2005. He also proposed the opening of two new border crossings -- one from Baluchistan Province in Pakistan and the other from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province.
After meeting with Karzai and other Afghan officials, Jamali planned to meet with Afghanistan's former king, Zahir Shah, and to visit a vacant building that had housed Pakistan's embassy in Kabul until last year.