World Bulletin / News Desk
"We fully support the Afghan-led reconciliation process aimed at bringing peace and tranquility to Afghanistan, which equally suits and benefits Pakistan," Major General Asif Ghafoor, the newly appointed spokesman for the Pakistani army told a press conference in Rawalpindi city on Tuesday.
Rejecting claims from some Afghan officials accusing Islamabad of exporting terrorism to Afghanistan, General Ghafoor talked about "a handful of elements who do not want good relations between the two countries."
"That’s why they have been engaged in a blame-game.
"I once again assure that Pakistan will never allow anyone to use its soil against any country," he said, adding his country wished peace and stability in Afghanistan so that over 1.3 million Afghan refugees could return to their homeland.
Pakistan brokered the landmark first round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government, and the Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015, but the process broke down after Taliban announced the death of their long-term leader Mullah Omer triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.
Chance for resumption of the stalled process went further dim following the death of Mullah Omer’s successor, Mullah Mansur in a US drone strike last year on Pakistan’s side near the border with Afghanistan.
For many, a persistent blame-game between Kabul and Islamabad -- accusing each other of harboring militants -- has also hampered the peace efforts.
General Ghafoor also commented on the relations with India, saying Islamabad would never initiate war with its longtime rival, however it would fully respond to any "misadventure" from New Delhi.
"Our wish for peace should not be taken as a weakness. Pakistan’s armed forces are fully geared to respond to any aggression by India," he said adding that his country wanted the longstanding Kashmir dispute with India to be solved according to UN resolutions.
Accusing the nuclear neighbor of initiating border clashes, which have killed 86 soldiers from both sides in recent months, Ghafoor said that New Delhi was just "trying to take the world's attention away from atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir."
Tensions between the two nuclear rivals have increased since India accused Pakistan of having links to gunmen who killed 19 soldiers in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir in Sept. 2016.
Pakistan has denied the charge and accuses India of repressing pro-independence protests that started in the disputed Himalayan region in July 2016 when more than 100 Kashmiri civilians were shot dead by Indian forces and thousands others were injured.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
The two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far, most of them by the Indian Armed Forces. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.