Pakistan’s army chief meets Taliban’s foreign minister

Taliban’s foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir in Islamabad where the two discussed numerous issues including that relating to border management and regional security.

According to a statement issued Sunday by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Munir and Muttaqi also discussed the formalization of bilateral security mechanisms for improvement in the current security environment.

Pakistan’s army chief of staff “stressed the need for enhanced cooperation between the two brotherly neighbors to effectively tackle the common challenges of terrorism and extremism. He reiterated the need for full support and commitment from the (Taliban) Afghan Interim Government in matters of mutual interest,” the statement read.

Muttaqi in turn “expressed his desire to work closely with Pakistan to promote regional stability and prosperity.”

Both sides agreed on the importance of maintaining regular contacts to strengthen bilateral ties and address issues of common concern, while Munir reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

In addition to his meeting with Muttaqi, Munir also met with visiting Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Saturday.

They not only discussed issues and concerns relating to regional security but also talked about defense cooperation.

According to the ISPR, “the two dignitaries also discussed the evolving security situation in the region. COAS acknowledged China’s role in promoting peace and stability in the region, and both sides agreed to enhance their existing cooperation in defense and security domains to effectively counter common security challenges.”

Muttaqi meanwhile is on a four-day visit to Islamabad for talks with various Pakistani officials and for a trilateral meeting with China and Pakistan’s foreign ministers.

Muttaqi’s visit to Pakistan is from May 5 to May 8.

On Monday, the UN Security Council agreed to allow Muttaqi to travel to Pakistan. Muttaqi has long been subject to a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo under Security Council sanctions.

According to a letter to the 15-member Security Council Taliban sanctions committee, Pakistan’s UN mission requested an exemption for Muttaqi to travel between May 6-9 “for a meeting with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China.”

The letter did not provide details of the meetings he would attend but said Pakistan would cover all costs associated with Muttaqi’s trip.

The Security Council committee allowed Muttaqi to travel to Uzbekistan last month for a meeting of the foreign ministers of neighboring countries of Afghanistan to discuss urgent peace, security, and stability matters.

Muttaqi’s meetings with Pakistani officials have faced with harsh criticism by a number of members of Pakistan’s parliament.

“Meeting Taliban terrorists with blood of Afghans on their hands to give them official recognition has encouraged all shades of terrorists – united under the anti-Afghan Taliban Project,” Pakistani MP Bushra Gohar said in a tweet.

“It is an insult to victims of terrorism,” she added.