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Pakistan PM Imran Khan vows to help stem Afghan bloodshed

KABUL (AFP) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited war-torn neighbour Afghanistan on Thursday (Nov 19), where he vowed to help reduce spiralling violence and push for a ceasefire between the Taleban and Afghan forces.

Mr Khan’s maiden visit to Kabul comes amid surging violence across Afghanistan that has worsened despite Afghan government negotiators and the Taleban launching peace talks in the Qatari capital Doha in September.

“We notice with concern that the level of violence despite the talks in Qatar… is rising,” Mr Khan told reporters outside the presidential palace after meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Pakistan will do everything, whatever is possible, we will do to help reduce this violence and in fact move towards a ceasefire.”

Mr Khan said it was Pakistan that first persuaded the Taleban to talk to Washington in 2018 for negotiations that eventually yielded a withdrawal deal for all foreign forces.

He also credited Islamabad’s efforts in helping start the peace talks in Doha.

“We the people and government of Pakistan have only one concern, and that concern is… that we want peace (in Afghanistan),” Mr Khan said.

Diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been strained.

Many Afghans are furious with their eastern neighbour, which they accuse of meddling in domestic affairs, aiding the Taleban and deliberately destabilising Afghanistan.

Islamabad has long denied such claims, though many senior Taleban leaders live in the city of Quetta in south-west Pakistan and militants have in the past enjoyed relatively unhindered movement across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistan last week accused Afghanistan of allowing India to set up camps on Afghan soil for “training, harbouring and launching terrorists into Pakistan”.

Both New Delhi and Kabul deny these charges.

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Mr Ghani, whose repeated calls for a ceasefire have been rebuffed by the Taleban, reiterated the need for an immediate truce.

“Violence is not an answer,” Mr Ghani said.

Earlier this year, the Taleban announced two short ceasefires to mark the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

The Doha talks, which started Sept 12, have so far failed to make significant progress.

In the past six months, the Taleban carried out 53 suicide attacks and 1,250 explosions that left 1,210 civilians dead and 2,500 wounded, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said on Thursday.

The Afghan government has also blamed the insurgents for a pair of attacks on Kabul education centres that killed dozens of students.

The Taleban have denied involvement, and the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

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