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Gilani to visit Afghan tomorrow

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will make a two-day official visit to Afghanistan from tomorrow to boost trade and economic activities and discuss a joint strategy against terrorism and extremism.

world Updated: Dec 03, 2010 15:55 IST

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will make a two-day official visit to Afghanistan from Saturday to boost trade and economic activities and discuss a joint strategy against terrorism and extremism.

Gilani will be visiting Afghanistan against the backdrop of disclosures in secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that have cast a shadow on relations between the two countries.

The cables have revealed that Afghan authorities have been sheltering nationalist leaders from Balochistan, including Brahamdagh Bugti who is wanted by Pakistani authorities.

Officials said that Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will exchange views on ways to "energise the Afghan reconciliation process" which has the backing of the international community.

"Their talks could prove decisive in bringing opposition groups into back into the political mainstream in Afghanistan," they said.

Gilani is visiting Afghanistan at the invitation of Karzai to "bolster ties to overcome regional security threats" and review progress in joint development projects.

The two leaders are expected to focus on measures to strengthen collaboration between their security institutions and enhance intelligence-sharing.

Counter-terrorism, transit trade, investment, infrastructure development, energy linkages and capacity building in education, health and agriculture are expected to figure in their parleys.

Gilani will also meet leading Afghan politicians and businessmen.

Pakistan has been backing the "Afghan-led inclusive reconciliation process to further prospects for a peaceful and secure Afghanistan as the US-led International Assistance Security Force goes for a phased withdrawal starting from July 2011", the officials said.

At his last meeting with Karzai in September, Gilani proposed a bilateral security dialogue to build closer coordination through institutional arrangements between security and intelligence agencies of the two countries.

The two sides will also discuss measures to eliminate production and trafficking of narcotics which is a source of funding for terrorists.

Last month, officials of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran held a meeting in Islamabad and agreed to set up liaison offices and open a joint anti-narcotics planning office in Tehran.

Pakistan and Afghanistan concluded a transit trade agreement in October.

Under the agreement, container trucks from Afghanistan will pass through Pakistan to the Wagah border with India and to the Pakistani ports of Karachi and Gwadar.

However, Pakistan has not allowed Indian goods to be transported through its territory to Afghanistan.