Pakistan's caretaker prime minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, has written a letter to his Taliban counterpart in Afghanistan, stressing the need to address the security and economic challenges facing both countries.
Kakar's letter to Taliban Prime Minister Mullah Hasan Akhund comes amid persistent tensions over Islamabad's complaints that Kabul is not doing enough to prevent cross-border "terrorist" attacks being planned on Afghan soil.
While discussing the letter's contents Sunday, a Pakistani official told VOA it was written to thank Akhund for his recent "felicitation message" to Kakar after he assumed office last month.
The official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media publicly, said that Kakar conveyed "our security concerns" and underlined the need to jointly address them to allow both countries to expand economic and trade cooperation.
"Enhanced regional trade and connectivity remains vital for the prosperity of our peoples. We must work assiduously to achieve these shared goals," the Pakistani prime minister wrote.
VOA reached out to the Pakistani information minister for comment on the reported letter sent to the Taliban prime minister but did not get a response immediately, nor have Taliban authorities in Kabul shared any reaction with the media.
Pakistan has experienced a resurgence in militant violence since the Taliban reclaimed power two years ago, when the United States and NATO allies withdrew all their troops after nearly two decades of foreign military involvement in the South Asian nation.
Officials in Islamabad say that the Taliban takeover encouraged fugitive leaders and fighters of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, to move to the Afghan side of the border and plot increasingly deadly attacks with "greater operational freedom" against Pakistani security forces.
Hundreds of Pakistanis, mostly police and soldiers, have died in almost daily attacks by TTP and Baluch insurgents in the last year. Northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Baluchistan provinces bordering Afghanistan bear the brunt of the violence. The Baluch insurgents have been fighting for the independence of Baluchistan from Pakistan.
Taliban authorities deny that Afghan soil is being used to threaten other countries, including Pakistan, and have urged Islamabad to avoid blaming Kabul for its internal security challenges.
Speaking to VOA last week, Kakar did not rule out the possibility of cross-border military action or drone strikes against suspected TTP bases in Afghanistan.
"Wherever we believe that action is required to protect our territory and people, we will take it," the prime minister said, declining to discuss operational details.
Pakistani officials say they have shared a list of suspected Afghan Taliban fighters who joined TTP militants in launching recent cross-border "terrorist" attacks, including a raid on security outposts in the northern Chitral district.
The TTP claimed responsibility for mounting the assault that the Pakistani army said had killed four soldiers and 12 assailants.
A Pakistani security official who requested anonymity told VOA that around 1,000 heavily armed militants, including many Afghans, participated in the cross-border Chitral attack. He said that if the Pakistani military hadn't detected the "concentration and movement" of the militants on the Afghan side beforehand, they would have faced significant losses during the raid.
The TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, is an offshoot and close ally of the Afghan Taliban. The United States has listed the group as a global terrorist organization. The United Nations estimated in its latest report that at least 4,000 TTP members are active in Afghanistan.
The landlocked, war-torn country heavily relies on Pakistani roads and seaports to conduct trade with other countries. Earlier this month, Islamabad closed a main Afghan border crossing for passengers and commercial truck convoys for nine days over security and terrorism concerns, stranding thousands of vehicles and travelers on both sides.
The Torkham border gate was reopened for normal traffic on Friday after officials said they had received assurances from the Taliban that they would not allow Afghan soil to be used for terrorist attacks against Pakistan
Source: Voice of America