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Pak-Afghan spy chiefs meet in trust-building effort


Islamabad :  Spy chiefs of Pakistan and Afghanistan have met here for the first time in nearly 10 months in a bid to build trust and boost intelligence sharing to combat cross-border terrorism amid efforts to revive the stalled peace process with the Taliban.

Masoud Andrabi, the head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, visited Islamabad yesterday to meet Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar.

The two-hour-long meeting was facilitated by the US, while Chinese officials attended as observers, Dawn reported.

“It was a step not a breakthrough,” said a source who closely followed the meeting. He said the very fact that the meeting took place was a major development.

Tension between ISI and NDS is believed to be at the root of most of the problems in the bilateral ties, which for the most part of the past decade and a half have been uneasy.

It was the first high-level interaction between the two agencies since May last when they signed an intelligence cooperation agreement. Afghanistan, though, had to shelve the agreement because of stiff domestic opposition.

The intelligence dialogue also began at a time when a quadrilateral initiative is on to help revive the Afghan reconciliation process that was suspended after the disclosure about the death of reclusive one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar last summer.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has said, “Pakistan is the country which can do the most in terms of influencing the Taliban’s attitude. I think Pakistan has the most influence.”

The first part of the meeting was very formal and stiff, but in the second part the two sides had some frank discussion about their concerns, with the Pakistani side reiterating its allegations that the deadly January 20 attack on Bacha Khan University was carried out by Afghan-based terrorists, the source said.

At least 21 people, mostly students, were killed and all four attackers were shot dead in a firefight with security forces.

“ISI presented some evidence to the Afghan side pointing towards the involvement of TTP and some other terrorist groups who are operating from Afghanistan in sabotage activities in Pakistan,” an official said.

Separately Afghan military operations chief Maj Gen Habib Hisari, met with Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza to discuss security and border management issues.

The crucial visits by Afghan security official were held ahead of the third meeting of a four-way talks of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and US officials tomorrow in Islamabad to facilitate talks between Afghan government and the Taliban.

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