Pakistan sternly warns Taliban to call off spring offensive
ISLAMABAD (Pajhwok): After a visible thaw in bilateral relations between Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan came down hard on Taliban by warning the militants’ group to immediately call off their spring offensive in Afghanistan or face dire consequences.
Pakistan’s Tribune.com reported the message was recently conveyed to Taliban leadership through ‘intermediaries’, said a senior government official, who has the knowledge of this crucial move by Islamabad.
“The Afghan authorities have also been in the loop,” said the official, who wished not to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.
The unprecedented step was taken after the Taliban launched a spring offensive against the Afghan security forces as well as international troops despite attempts by the Afghan negotiators to reach out to the ultraorthodox militia that has been fighting a bloody insurgency since 2001.
Recently, representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government officials met in Doha, Qatar, to explore the possibility of peace talks, but the unabated Taliban attacks have threatened the embryonic process. Pakistan is believed to have been pushing for a ceasefire by all sides in Afghanistan in order to pave the way for a meaningful reconciliation process.
The official disclosed that Pakistan has made it clear to the senior Taliban cadres that they would have to face ‘serious consequences’ if the ongoing spring offensive was not called off. He added that Pakistan and Afghanistan could jointly deal with the Afghan Taliban if the ultraorthodox group refused to respond to the peace overtures.
It is understood that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who led a powerful delegation including army chief General Raheel Sharif and ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, to Kabul on May 12, informed the Afghan leadership about the ‘warning’ conveyed to the insurgents in Afghanistan.
At a news briefing in Kabul, the prime minister strongly condemned the uptick in Taliban violence and the group’s spring offensive. “Continuation of such offensive and attacks will be construed as terrorist acts and we condemn such attacks in the strongest terms,” Nawaz declared in a rare public condemnation of insurgents’ activities.
Islamabad is also concerned about the sanctuaries of Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan’s border regions, especially in southern and northeastern provinces. The Pakistan Taliban uses these areas as a springboard for launching cross-border attacks in Pakistan.
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