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Taliban attend trade meeting in Pakistan amid mass deportation

AT News

KABUL – Despite escalating tensions over the recent expulsion of Afghans living in Pakistan, a Cabinet minister from Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government participated in a trade meeting in Islamabad, officials reported on Wednesday.

Approximately 300,000 Afghans have returned to Afghanistan since the initiation of a nationwide crackdown on undocumented foreigners in Pakistan last month. The crackdown primarily affects about 1.7 million Afghans who sought refuge during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation and following the Taliban takeover in 2021. The Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan has strongly criticized Pakistan’s actions.

Nevertheless, this week saw the Taliban government sending Commerce and Industry Minister Nooruddin Azizi to Islamabad for a meeting involving commerce and trade ministers from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. Azizi engaged in separate discussions with Pakistani officials, addressing trade matters and the issue of Afghan expulsions.

In a statement on social media platform X, the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad disclosed that the three nations agreed to enhance trade, improve transit facilities, boost joint investments, and strengthen transportation links.

Pakistan recently opened three additional border crossing points to expedite the deportation of Afghans, many of whom face challenges taking their belongings with them. Both the embassy and the Taliban government accused Pakistani authorities of seizing their property and funds, a claim Pakistan refutes.

In response to the expulsions, the Taliban-led government has established camps in Afghanistan for the returnees. Analysts suggest that the deportations are linked to the Taliban administration’s support for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, who are currently sheltering in Afghanistan.

While the TTP is a distinct militant group, it maintains a close alliance with the Afghan Taliban. Authorities contend that the insurgents have grown more audacious while openly residing in Afghanistan since the Taliban assumed control in 2021. Pakistan’s military has been actively conducting operations against these insurgents.

In the latest operation, Pakistani troops raided a militant hideout in the northwest district of Tank along the Afghanistan border early Wednesday, resulting in the death of seven insurgents. The military stated that a search operation is still underway in the area.

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