ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has appointed Asif Ali Khan Durrani as the country’s new special representative on Afghan affairs, amid growing concerns over the stability of Afghanistan as the country struggles with its economy and humanitarian crises under Taliban rule.
Durrani’s appointment comes at a time of strained relations between the two neighboring countries, mainly due to border skirmishes and a sharp rise in militant attacks by the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which Islamabad says has been emboldened by the Afghan Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021.
Officials in Islamabad have repeatedly said Kabul was not doing enough to counter the activities of the TTP, many of whose commanders and soldiers fled to neighboring Afghanistan after the Pakistan military launched a series of operations against the group’s stronghold, North Waziristan, starting in 2014.
Earlier this month, Islamabad hosted a day-long trilateral dialogue with China and Afghanistan and invited the acting Afghan foreign minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, who had long been subjected to a travel ban under the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. He was given an exemption by the UNSC to visit Pakistan.
“The newly appointed Special Representative on Afghan Affairs, Asif Durrani, called on the MOS (minister of state) Hina Rabbani Khar today,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
“The MOS welcomed [Durrani]. and assured him of full support and [cooperation] from The Foreign Office in fulfilling his responsibilities.”
Durrani’s predecessor Mohammad Sadiq stepped down from the post two months ago, citing “personal pursuits.”
Durrani has previously served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran and the UAE and from 2005 to 2009 as the deputy chief of the Pakistani mission in Kabul. Durrani has completed diplomatic stints in several countries, including India, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Durrani will have a difficult relationship to manage, as no country has recognized the Taliban who took over Afghanistan after a 20-year insurgency against US-led forces.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this month warned of a severe shortfall in financial pledges for its humanitarian appeal this year, which is just over 6 percent funded, short of the $4.6 billion requested for a country in which most of the population lives in poverty.
The Taliban have also tightened controls on women’s access to public life, including barring women from university and closing girls’ high schools.