Afghans stage anti-Pakistan protests

Demonstrators gather in Kabul to rally against what many see as Islamabad's meddling in their country's affairs.

    Many Afghans accuse Pakistan of backing armed groups that foment instability within their country [Reuters]

    Hundreds of Afghans have taken to the streets of Kabul to condemn the recent shelling of border towns by Pakistan's army and accusing its powerful spy agency of involvement in the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the country's influential former president.

    Sunday's protest came amid heightened tensions between the neighbours, with Afghan officials blaming Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Taliban's senior leadership over Rabbani's assassination last month.

    Rabbani, who was head of a peace council tasked with trying to reach a negotiated settlement to the 10-year war, was killed at his Kabul home on September 20 by a suicide bomber who claimed to be carrying a message of peace from the Taliban leadership.

    Angry protesters, gathered under tight security, chanted "Death to Pakistan" and "Death to ISI".

    "Pakistan and its ISI must stop interfering in Afghanistan. Our patience is running out," said Daoud Kodamani, a 22-year-old university student.

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    "Fighting our country's enemies is nothing new for Afghans and Pakistan is another enemy to fight with," he said.

    Many Afghans have long accused Pakistan and the ISI of backing armed groups to further Islamabad's own interests, which Pakistan denies.

    Afghan provincial officials say Pakistan's military fired hundreds of rockets between September 21-25 in eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces, which share a long border with lawless tribal areas inside Pakistan.

    Although the shelling did not cause significant casualties, it followed more than a month of bombardments by Pakistan's military in June and July that Afghanistan said had killed at least 42 people.

    Pakistan has repeatedly blamed Afghanistan for allowing armed groups to find refuge on its side of the border.

    Reviewing strategy

    A spokesman for Hamid Karzai meanwhile said the Afghan president was reviewing his strategy for making peace with the Taliban and would reveal the next steps "very soon".

    "All peace talks with the Taliban are suspended," said Siamak Herawi on Sunday. "The president will review the peace and reconciliation strategy."

    Jalal Rabbani, son of Burhanuddin Rabbani, told Al Jazeera that the Taliban were "enemies of peace and we will not be sitting with them when they don't discuss peace".

    On Friday, Karzai expressed frustration with senior Afghan Taliban chiefs and stressed the need to hold discussions with Pakistan to ensure security.

    "If [the Pakistanis] would like to see peace in Afghanistan, it is within their reach; and right now the world needs to convince them that the only way to proceed in Afghanistan is through peaceful manners," said Rabbani.

    He also accused Pakistan of playing "double games" and purposely providing Afghans with false intelligence about armed groups.

    Charging Pakistan

    Afghanistan's intelligence agency said on Saturday that it had handed Pakistan evidence that the Taliban's leadership plotted Rabbani's assassination on Pakistani soil.

    The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said that the killing was planned in a suburb of the Pakistani city of Quetta. Pakistan denies the claim.

    Meanwhile, the United States is also stepping up pressure on Pakistan to take action against the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.

    Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently charged that the Haqqani network was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence service.

    US President Barack Obama added Friday that Islamabad has "got to take care of this problem".

    Jalal Rabbani told Al Jazeera that it was time the international community recognised Pakistan's role in fomenting instability in Afghanistan.

    "It is time that the Security Council conveys a meeting particularly in regards to Pakistan that they are actively involving themselves in terrorism, supporting terrorism of any kind - violent, extremist," he said.

    On Saturday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it had captured Haji Mali Khan, a senior Haqqani commander who is also the uncle of its de facto leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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