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Afghans halt bilateral meetings with Pak

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 16.07.08

Kabul, July 15 (Reuters): Afghanistan has suspended a series of meetings with Pakistan because of what it called the “violent policies” of the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies and their suspected involvement in a string of attacks.

Pakistan said the accusations were “baseless” and had created an “artificial crisis” that would sour bilateral relations.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are important US allies but their relations, for decades dogged by a dispute over their border, have more recently been plagued by Afghan accusations of Pakistani involvement in violence in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said yesterday Pakistani agents were behind recent violence, including a suicide car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last week that killed 58 people.

India’s national security adviser said last week he had no doubt Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was behind the attack.

After a cabinet meeting yesterday, Karzai’s government issued a statement that Afghanistan would maintain people-to-people contacts and support the newly elected Pakistani government.

“(But) it feels compelled in the face of the violent policies of Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, and for the sake of its national sovereignty, to suspend its bilateral and multilateral meetings,” the cabinet said in a statement issued late yesterday.

Afghanistan was pulling out of meetings on border cooperation and bilateral and regional economic cooperation, all scheduled for coming weeks, it said, adding that participation would be suspended “until a positive spirit of dialogue and understanding for mutual trust is restored”.

The Pakistani foreign ministry issued a rejoinder.

“Pakistan hopes that Afghanistan will do some rethinking and desist from such provocative statements and initiation of blame game,” the statement said.

Karzai warned last month that he might send troops into Pakistan to fight the Taliban and he told reporters yesterday that Afghanistan would soon take revenge for the death and destruction. Pakistan backed the Taliban through the 1990s but cut support after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

More than 1,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed trying to dislodge al Qaida and Taliban fighters from tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. The militants have carried out many bomb attacks on Pakistani security forces.

Despite that, Pakistan has never been able to dispel suspicion that it is at least turning a blind eye to help going to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Afghanistan believes Pakistan helps the Taliban to counter growing Indian influence and allow Pakistani forces to concentrate on defending the Indian border.