Afghan President arrives in Pakistan to discuss peace process

Islamabad: Afghan President Hamid Karzai today arrived here on a day-long visit to mend frayed ties with Pakistan and to seek the release of high-profile Taliban prisoners including Mullah Barader to give a fresh impetus to the reconciliation processin his war-torn country.

Karzai arrived at an Air Force base near Islamabad around 10:00 am (local time) where Pakistan's foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz received him.

An 80-member delegation, including Defense and Foreign Ministers, head of Afghan peace council and senior officials, is accompanying the Afghan president.

The Afghan President was later given a Guard of Honour at the Prime Minister's house after which both Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a one-on-one meeting.

Reports said the on-going peace process in Afghanistan and the post-2014 scenario were discussed during the meeting.

This was the first highest-level exchange between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the democratic transition and swearing-in of the new government here.

This is also Karzai's first visit to Islamabad in 18 months and it could be a deal-breaker to overcome hostility ahead of the US troops pullout from Afghanistan next year.

Ties between the two sides nosedived after Pakistan and the US supported a Taliban office that opened in Qatari capital Doha in June to foster talks and also over a reported statement by Aziz that Kabul should cede some provinces to Taliban for lasting peace.

Aziz reportedly proposed this to Afghan Ambassador Umer Duadzai in a meeting in Islamabad in June.

Karzai will also meet with President Asif Ali Zardari. His visit will carry forward this process of constructive engagement between the two countries, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Chaudhry earlier said.

Sharif has set out an agenda of improving ties with all neighbours and has spoken at least thrice to Karazi since taking office in June.

The two leaders are expected to have in-depth consultations on all issues of common interest, including the evolving situation in the region as well as ways to deepen and broaden bilateral ties.

Chaudhry said that peace and stability in Afghanistan are in Pakistans vital interest and his country has extended consistent support for the promotion of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. .