Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s defense minister has claimed that Afghanistan’s soil is being used by armed groups to carry out attacks on his country, prompting a sharp response from the Taliban government in Kabul, calling the accusation “false” and “regrettable mentioned.
“We have spoken with the government of Afghanistan and we will continue to say that… their land is being used for cross-border terrorism,” Khwaja Asif told a private news channel Monday night.
Asif’s remarks came shortly after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, newly appointed military chief general Asim Munir and other top officials attended a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) in the capital, Islamabad.
A government statement after the NSC meeting said that “no country should provide refuge for terrorists” and that their attacks “will be met with the full force of the state”.
The NSC statement did not name any country, but it was a clear reference to neighboring Afghanistan, whose government denies the allegations as “provocative and baseless”.
Responding to the two statements, Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban government in Afghanistan, said on Tuesday that “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants good relations with all its neighbors, including Pakistan,” using the name the Taliban has given the country. datum.
“The Islamic Emirate is doing its best that the territory of Afghanistan is not used against Pakistan or any other country. We are committed to this goal, but the Pakistan side is also responsible for trying to control the situation, refraining from making unfounded statements and provocative allegations, as such statement and mistrust is in neither interest parties,” he added.
The altercation between Pakistani and Afghan officials follows one series of recent attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an armed group also known as the Pakistani Taliban because of its ideological affinity with the Afghan Taliban.
The TTP has been waging an insurgency against the state of Pakistan for more than a decade. The group is demanding the imposition of their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, the release of its government-arrested members and an undoing of the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
In 2022 alone, Pakistan’s monitoring agencies recorded more than 150 attacks by the TTP across the country, killing dozens of people. Authorities fear that the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan has emboldened the TTP and led to its resurgence.
In November, the armed group terminated unilaterally a ceasefire agreement brokered by the Afghan Taliban with the Pakistani government and ordered its fighters to launch attacks across the country.
In his interview with the news channel, Asif referred to the Doha agreement the Taliban signed with the United States in February 2020 to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
As part of the pact, the Taliban committed not to allow any armed group to use Afghanistan’s territory to launch attacks against another country. When US and NATO forces began to leave in August 2021, the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul.
‘Peace is not negotiable’
In a tweet on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan will have “a zero-tolerance policy for terrorists who challenge his subpoena.” “Peace is non-negotiable,” he wrote.
NSC made important decisions yesterday after hours of deliberation. Two of them stand out: the state of Pakistan will have a zero-tolerance policy for terrorists who challenge the subpoena. Peace is non-negotiable. Second, the economic roadmap will revitalize the economy and bring relief to the people
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) January 3, 2023
Last month, TTP fighters overpowered Pakistani security personnel and took them as hostages in an anti-terrorism center in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan. The 40-hour siege ended after the Pakistani army stormed the facility and killed all 33 TTP attackers.
The incident contributed to escalating tensions between Islamabad and Kabul.
Last week, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said his government is considering launching attacks on TTP hideouts in Afghanistan if the Taliban government fails to extradite members of the armed group to Pakistan.
The Taliban responded, saying Afghanistan is “not without its owner.”
“As always, we are ready to defend the territorial integrity and independence of our homeland, and it is worth noting that we have better experience than anyone else in defending and protecting our country,” it said in a statement.