by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, April 11 (Xinhua) -- A recent decision by Pakistan and Afghanistan to operationalize a new mechanism for dialogue have raised hopes for bilateral comprehensive engagement on key issues including actions against irreconcilable elements in both countries.
During Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's visit to Kabul and official talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on April 6, both sides reached an agreement on Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a joint action plan for cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees' repatriation and joint economic development.
Tense relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan had badly affected cooperation, particularly in security area. Violence in both countries has led to a traditional blame game that has widened mistrust.
But the two neighbors have now agreed to "deny use of their respective territory by any country, network, group or individuals for anti-state activities against either country," according to the seven key points of the APAPPS.
They have also reached at understanding to "undertake effective actions against fugitives and the irreconcilable elements posing security threats to either of the two countries."
The two sides are expected to put in place a joint supervision, coordination and confirmation mechanism through Liaison Officers (LOs) in both capitals for realization of the agreed actions. If any side will have information about the activities of militants, the intelligence will be shared with the LO for a possible joint action.
Pakistani former ambassador to Afghanistan Qazi Hamayun highlighted the importance of the joint Pak-Afghan groups and said both countries have now agreed to act against those elements who refuse to join peace process.
But Hamayun told Xinhua that the U.S. and Afghan leaders should not use pressure tactics on Pakistan as the reconciliation process will remain a complicated matter unless the foreign troops issue, the main reason the Taliban has been fighting against, is addressed.
Defense expert Said Nazeer Momnad said the APAPPS has assumed importance as now both countries will pursue bilateral engagement and regional countries would have relatively little influence in either county.
Momand, a retired army brigadier, told Xinhua on Wednesday that the establishment of the new system is a tangible step to deal with all those issues which had been major irritants in relations.
"This is very significant that Pakistan and Afghanistan appoint groups for every problem. They would now regularly sit face-to-face to share concerns and find out a solution. This will help in bridging the trust gap," Momand said.
He said Abbasi's visit to Kabul has laid foundation for high level exchanges and now the Afghan leaders will visit Pakistan that will enable both sides to use the APAPPS to respond to mutual issues of contention and concerns and to avoid public blame game.
As Pakistan and Afghanistan have now defined terms of the future cooperation at the highest level, they should frustrate any possible attempt to derail the process by elements opposed to tension-free bilateral relations.
However, both countries still face serious security challenges, therefore the two governments should be prepared to make sure that any violent incidents in either country should not spoil the new mechanism, experts warned.