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Taliban-appointed foreign minister visits Pakistan

This handout photograph taken on October 21, 2021 and released by the Pakistan Foreign Office shows Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (2R) receiving Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (3L) upon his arrival at the airport in Kabul. (Photo by AFP)

Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign affairs chief has embarked on a visit to neighboring Pakistan as the Taliban rulers seek regional and global recognition.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that this week's visit was a follow-up to a visit last month by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Kabul.

Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi will lead a delegation to Islamabad to discuss “Pakistan-Afghanistan relations with a particular focus ... on enhanced trade, facilitation of transit trade, cross-border movement, land and aviation links, people-to-people contacts, and regional connectivity,” the foreign ministry said.

While Pakistan has not formally recognized the Taliban administration since August, when the militants took over control of Afghanistan, it has longstanding ties with the group. The previous Afghan government had routinely accused Pakistan of harboring the Taliban. Pakistan has already called on governments to allow development assistance to flow into Afghanistan and to unfreeze billions of dollars in its central bank assets to prevent economic collapse.

Despite the generally good relations between the Taliban and Pakistan, friction has occurred as well.

Afghanistan and Pakistan had been unable in recent weeks to solve issues over air links and control of freight crossing the border. Pakistan has suffered the repercussions of four decades of instability with armed groups along the 2,670-km-long border.

The Pakistan International Airlines, which had been operating regularly in Kabul, also suspended flights in mid-October, complaining of interference and harassment of its staff by the Taliban officials.

The visit by the Taliban diplomat also comes as Islamabad and the local Taliban militants have recently agreed to a “complete ceasefire” following negotiations in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government’s effort to reach an agreement with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) comes against the backdrop of the Afghan Taliban’s return to power in Kabul. The Afghan Taliban are reportedly mediating between the TTP and Pakistan.

Last month, the Pakistani foreign minister said in an exclusive interview with Press TV that the United States’ abrupt withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the “capitulation” of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials are the main reason behind the chaotic situation in the war-torn country.  

Qureshi pointed to terrorism as one of the main challenges currently facing Afghanistan, saying Islamabad does not want to see the footprint of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group expanding in the region and that a coordinated approach was needed to address the issue.

Taliban’s seizure of power came in the wake of the withdrawal of US and foreign forces from Afghanistan. The power vacuum gave rise to the recurrence of tensions and Daesh taking advantage of the chaos.

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