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Afghanistan-Pakistan key talks in the offing amid heightened tensions

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KABUL – In an effort to address strained ties and mounting allegations of cross-border terrorist attacks, a senior Pakistani envoy is scheduled to visit Afghanistan on Wednesday for crucial bilateral talks with Taliban leaders.

The envoy, Asif Durrani, recently appointed as Islamabad’s special representative on Afghanistan, will meet with officials in Kabul to discuss mutual trade, economic cooperation, and security measures, according to a Pakistani official who spoke to VOA on the condition of anonymity due to media restrictions.

Durrani highlighted the increase in Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country two years ago, with bilateral trade currently surpassing $2 billion, as per official data. He also praised the growth of Afghanistan’s trade with neighboring countries like China and Iran. The restoration of relative peace in Afghanistan has facilitated Pakistan’s trade with landlocked Central Asian nations through Afghan transit routes, rising from $55 million to nearly $200 million within two years.

Recognizing the potential benefits of improved economic activity, Durrani emphasized that it could play a significant role in reducing Afghanistan’s high poverty rate, estimated to be around 95% by the U.N. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that addressing the country’s humanitarian crisis might take time, especially considering potential reductions in international aid to Afghanistan.

This is amidst a surge in militant attacks in Pakistan, primarily in areas bordering Afghanistan, which have resulted in over 400 deaths this year, mostly security forces. Pakistani authorities attribute the violence to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP.

Additionally, Pakistani security officials reported confiscating U.S. military weapons from militants involved in recent counterterrorism operations.

Taliban authorities have strongly refuted claims that the TTP or other groups are using Afghan soil for cross-border terrorism. Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid urged Pakistan to share evidence with Kabul to initiate an investigation into these allegations.

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