The Afghan government summoned a Pakistan diplomat to explain Prime Minister Imran Khan's latest remarks on ongoing Afghan peace talks, as tensions flared between the neighbouring countries once again. Afghanistan's ministry of foreign affairs summoned the diplomat to object about remarks that it deemed "explicit interference" in Afghan affairs, the ministry's spokesman, Sibghatullah Ahmadi, said on Twitter.
It marks the fourth time in about a month and a half that Kabul has demanded an explanation from Islamabad for comments related to peace talks aimed at ending 17 years of war in Afghanistan. In late March, Afghanistan recalled its ambassador from Islamabad for Khan's suggestion that forming an interim Afghan government might smooth peace talks between U.S. and Taliban officials. The ambassador returned shortly after Pakistan clarified Khan's remarks as being reported out of context.
But on Friday, Khan addressed the matter again at a rally in Pakistan in which he explained his original comments as "brotherly advice," according to accounts published in Afghan media. "Afghanistan considers recent statements of Imran Khan explicit interference in internal affairs of Afghanistan and deems PM's remarks a return to his previous stance," Ahmadi tweeted.
U.S. and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks but the Taliban has refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's mandate officially expires in May. The date for the next presidential election has been postponed twice and is now set for Sept. 28.
Ghani has been shut out from the peace talks and is under pressure from rivals to step aside and allow a caretaker government to take over, a suggestion he has rejected.
(With inputs from agencies.)