Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan via X

Iran and Pakistan Officials Meet to Discuss Afghanistan 

Iran’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, is currently on an official visit to Islamabad, aiming to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan, particularly concerns related to terrorism, with Pakistani authorities.

As per the Iranian State News Agency, IRNA, he was officially invited by his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Durrani, and is scheduled to meet with the Pakistani Caretaker Foreign Minister along with other authorities.

In a post on social media, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that during the meeting with Qomi, Pakistan’s Caretaker Foreign Minister, Jalil Abbas Jilani, underscored Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and emphasized the need for enhanced coordination for regional stability.

As Afghanistan’s western and southern neighbors, both Iran and Pakistan initially welcomed the US military withdrawal from the country and the Taliban’s assumption of control in August 2021. However, in recent years, both countries have experienced security challenges and have consistently urged the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups.

Pakistan accuses the Taliban of sheltering the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates, the militant groups responsible for carrying out multiple deadly attacks against Pakistani security personnel and civilians. The Taliban, however, insists that the TTP is an internal issue for Pakistan, maintaining that they will not allow any group to use Afghanistan soil against other countries.

In an attempt to repair their torn relationship, Pakistan and the Taliban have recently engaged in the exchange of high-level delegations. Earlier in January, Mullah Sherin Akhund, a senior Taliban figure and the governor of Kandahar province visited Islamabad, where he held meetings with Pakistani officials, including the foreign minister and other authorities. Days later, the Pakistani government dispatched Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, a Pakistani politician and leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, who holds close ties with the Taliban, to discuss TTP issues with the Taliban authorities. While visiting Afghanistan, he reportedly met with the Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, in Kandahar as well as TTP leaders, Noor Wali Mehsud and Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

Despite recent interactions between Pakistan and the Taliban, as stated by the former Pakistani ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, the core issues between the two sides remain far from being resolved.

Iran, on the other hand, has recently been targeted by ISIS in its southeastern city of Kerman, where nearly 90 Iranian citizens were killed and over 200 others were wounded. The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has recently said that at least one of the suicide bombers entered from Afghanistan after receiving training from ISIS in the country’s northeastern Badakhshan province.

Following the attack, Iran’s Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, announced the country’s plan to seal Iran’s 1,000-kilometer borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan beef up security measures. “We have points on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan that are a priority for blocking. It is not only a wall. Different measures will be adopted to seal off the border,” he said. Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government and Pakistan have yet to react to the announcement of the border closures. Both had condemned the Kerman attack earlier, although the Taliban avoided calling it a “terrorist attack.”

While Pakistan has different security concerns about Afghanistan, both countries find themselves on the same page on the issue of refugees from Afghanistan. Iran and Pakistan have for decades hosted millions of Afghan refugees. In the wake of political crises such as the one in 2021 that brought the Taliban back to power, the numbers have soared dramatically in both countries as people tried to escape fears of persecution and poverty.

However, both countries have recently planned to forcibly repatriate thousands of refugees to the impoverished Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. According to recent reports, over one million refugees were forcibly deported from these two countries last year. Although the Taliban initially criticized the decision and then tried to shore up support for those who return, neither the Taliban’s actions have proven adequate nor have Tehran and Islamabad shown any sign of relenting.