Afghan foreign minister positive on Pakistan ties


The Afghan foreign minister was upbeat about his country’s often-acrimonious relations with its Pakistan following release of a former Taliban deputy leader, a move Kabul had long sought to spur peace talks with the Taliban.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of supporting the anti-government insurgency that threatens the fragile authority of President Hamid Karzai despite the presence of tens of thousands of US-led forces.
But Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the first signal that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is keeping his promise made in a meeting with Karzai a month ago to cooperate with Afghanistan.
Kabul has sought Baradar’s release since he was arrested in Pakistan in 2010 after holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government.
Afghanistan viewed the arrest as an attempt to sabotage the peace effort. But Pakistan is increasingly worried that further instability in Afghanistan could make it more difficult to fight militants at home as the US prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces from the country by 2014.
Rassoul said that Nawaz aims at reviving Pakistan’s economy, and for that he needs to improve security, which requires working with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism.
Rassoul is in New York for the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. His address on Tuesday was closely watched – not just for his views on the outlook for Afghanistan but because he is considered a likely contender to succeed Karzai.
Rassoul, a former national security adviser, batted away questions on whether he would run in the April 2014 elections. He said everyone would find out once the October 6 deadline for candidates to register passed.