Karzai tells Pakistan ‘No Proxy Wars’ in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD

AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai told Pakistan on Thursday his country did not want to become a battle ground for proxy wars and welcomed an offer from Islamabad to help with peace efforts.

Karzai met Pakistani leaders on his first visit to the neighbouring country – viewed with deep suspicion by many Afghans – since winning controversial elections last year and pledging to work towards peace talks with Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan president welcomed Islamabad’s offers of support for Afghanistan’s efforts at reconciliation, saying Pakistan “has a significantly important role to play in that and Afghanistan would welcome that role.”

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked operatives have carved out havens on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Afghan and US officials have accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of still supporting Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

Despite a series of reported Taliban arrests in Pakistan in recent weeks, scepticism remains on whether its powerful spy agency has made a clean break with Islamic hardliners.

Pakistan confirmed only the arrest of Mullah Adbul Ghani Baradar, described by US officials as number two to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar but also reported to have been in contact with Afghan government officials.

Karzai’s government has called on Islamabad to extradite Baradar but some analysts suggest he could become a bargaining chip for a Pakistan determined to have a say in Afghanistan’s future.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan was “consulting legal experts” with regard to the extradition request but reiterated willingness to assist Afghan-led peace efforts.

“In the pursuit of peace and development, for national reconciliation and reintegration, Pakistan places its full weight behind the agenda and the vision outlined by the Afghan people and their elected leadership,” he said.

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