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Pakistani Political Party Leaders Visit Kabul on Ghani Invitation

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pakistani-political-leadersPresident Ashraf Ghani has invited a number of leaders from Pakistani political parties to meet with him in Kabul to discuss strengthening relations between the two neighboring countries and their mutual struggle with terrorism.

President Ghani's spokesman has said that the goal of these discussions is to encourage opportunities for cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan in combatting terrorism and securing their shared border region, which has been a hotbed of militancy in the region for decades.

According to Pakistani media, the meeting is expected to take place on January 8.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan over 20 times during his presidency without any significant results. Experts have long said support from Islamabad is the only way the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaeda threat can be fully addressed in the region. Yet it is only since President Ghani has taken office that ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have actually advanced toward that goal.

"Meetings will be held between the political parties heads and tribal elders of both sides of the Durand, and the main goal is to strengthen the relationships between the two countries, improving security and fighting against terrorism," presidential spokesman Nazifullah Salarzai said on Saturday.

A number of political analysts in Pakistan welcomed the move by President Ghani. "It is beneficial for both countries, Pakistan must participate in this meeting and stand on its decisions," Pakistani political analyst Safdar Hayat told TOLOnews.

Others emphasized the mutuality of responsibility for addressing regional security problems. "It is very important and there is a need for reaching a result; both countries must agree that there are terrorist cells in both countries, which must be eliminated and both sides must work jointly toward security and peace," Pakistani analyst Naser Mahmood said.

A number of Afghan House of Representative members, who recently met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior Pakistani officials, have said that it was international community pressure, especially from China, along with growing violence inside Pakistan, that forced the hand of the Pakistani government into greater cooperation.

"Whether Pakistan is committed or not, there is a lot of pressure from the international community, especially China," MP Shir Wali Wardak said. "The heads of political parties that are coming here have an agenda for how both sides can work toward peace."

MP Gul Pacha stressed the importance of conveying to the Pakistani political leaders that they must ensure the Taliban's Shura Council - believed to be based in the city of Quetta - is dismantled. "The concerns of Afghanistan are that the four terrorist Shuras active in Pakistan must be eliminated," he said.

With the formation of the national unity government in Kabul, along with the Taliban's massacre of over 130 children at a school in Peshawar last month, the two neighbors seem more galvanized than ever before, moving closer to the honest partnership they have often paid lip-service to.