June 13, 2014
On the eve of Afghanistan’s runoff election, both presidential hopefuls have tried to reassure neighboring Pakistan they want to improve bilateral ties through enhanced political and economic cooperation. Islamabad has also vowed to strictly adhere to a policy of non-interference, but observers see daunting challenges facing the two nations as they seek to overcome years of mutual suspicion and mistrust.
Pakistani authorities say they have taken special steps to beef up security along what is considered a mostly porous border to help their Afghan counterparts protect the runoff presidential election. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam reiterated her country’s resolve to support a peaceful democratic transition in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s alleged links to the Afghan Taliban insurgency have long hindered efforts to improve bilateral ties.
Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration accuses Pakistan's military spy agency, the ISI, of trying to disrupt the presidential election. His National Security Council last week went further, alleging that a Pakistan-based Islamist group, with perceived links to the ISI, plotted the recent assassination attempt on front-runner presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah that left more than a dozen people dead.
Pakistan has long been accused of sheltering al-Qaida affiliates and Taliban militants in its border region and facilitating insurgent attacks across the Afghan border. However, in recent years Islamabad has been complaining that Kabul is allowing fugitive leaders of the Pakistani Taliban to use the Afghan soil for launching deadly cross-border raids on Pakistani military outposts.
Pakistani Senator Afrasiab Khattak hopes the future Afghan leadership will not “turn a blind eye” to the Pakistani fugitives on their soil, warning increasing terrorism and extremism are problems for both nations.
Islamabad has this month twice summoned the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan to formally protest several raids carried out by fugitive Pakistani militants in which Pakistani soldiers guarding the frontier were killed.
Mohammad Sadiq Khan is Islamabad's former ambassador in Kabul, and is now the secretary of National Security Division and part of key deliberations regarding Pakistan's counter-terrorism strategy. He said that around 56,000 Afghans visit Pakistan every day, and both countries need to jointly monitor this movement to prevent illegal crossings.