ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday signed an agreement to strengthen economic and trade cooperation.
The ceremony took place in the presence of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The deal was signed by Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his Afghan counterpart Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal.
Karzai concluded a two-day trip to Pakistan, by inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Kabul. Karzai came to Islamabad to meet Sharif for the first time since his election in May to overcome public rows that have hampered efforts to end 12 years of war in Afghanistan.
He urged Pakistan to help arrange peace talks between his government and the Taliban, then took the unexpected step of extending his visit by a day at Sharif’s request.
Both leaders met for lunch in the mountain town of Murree, north of Islamabad, and discussed “matters of common interest”, said the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. “Karzai reiterated his invitation to Sharif to visit Afghanistan. The prime minister agreed,” the ministry said, adding the dates would be worked out later.
Infuriated by the opening in June of a Taliban office in Qatar, considered a precursor towards talks with US officials, Karzai wants Pakistan to help open dialogue with the insurgents.
Elements of the Pakistani state are accused of funding, controlling and sheltering the Taliban. Islamabad says it will do anything to stop the fighting in Afghanistan. But analysts doubt Pakistan has the influence to force the Taliban to the negotiating table as they have refused all contact with Karzai’s government, branding it a US puppet.
Karzai said Afghanistan expected Pakistan to provide “opportunities or a platform for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council”, Kabul’s official negotiators, and the Taliban. In the past, he has identified Taliban havens in Pakistan as the main cause of increased violence in his country. Agencies