ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the Foreign Office (FO) to arrange the transportation of wheat stock to Kunduz — the northern Afghan city where people face major food shortages after the provincial capital fell to a lightning Taliban assault in their biggest military victory since 2001.
Traumatised residents returning to Kunduz last week faced major food shortages after the Taliban beat a “tactical retreat”, leaving much of the city in ruins as fears of a comeback by the militants loomed large.
Taking notice of the food crisis in Kunduz, the prime minister directed FO to send a plane-load of wheat stock to the city.
This measure is being taken as a goodwill gesture on behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan for the returning residents of Kunduz facing severe food shortage after Taliban retreat, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister House.
Pakistan is experiencing a wheat surplus this year, but the government’s plan to export 1.2 million tonnes of the stock has been undermined by falling prices on the world market.
It may be recalled that Pakistan and Afghanistan had signed an agreement in 2008 for supply of 50,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan as reported by media.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share an uneasy relationship with Afghan officials frequently accusing Pakistan of harbouring and nurturing the Taliban, who are waging a 13-year war against local and foreign troops in the country.
An accord for cooperation aimed at bolstering fight against terrorism — which was signed between intelligence agencies of the two countries in May this year — failed to end the mistrust.
Ties between Islamabad and Kabul were generally improving until the recent attacks in Kabul adversely affected them.
President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of failing to cleanse its soil of terrorist bases from where attacks were being launched continuously.
Afghan defence officials also accused Pakistan’s intelligence service of playing a key role in the Taliban’s seizure of Kunduz.
Pakistan has denied the allegations, and condemned the attacks in Kabul and Kunduz in strong terms.
Since coming to power last year Ghani has courted Pakistan, expending substantial domestic political capital in the process, in hopes Islamabad will persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
Pakistan had brokered peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in July, the first round of which took place in Murree. But after the announced death of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar, a second round of talks was postponed.
The fall of Kunduz at the end of last month came as a profound shock in Afghanistan, piling pressure on the government of President Ashraf Ghani and raising questions over the capacity of security forces to maintain stability.
Afghan government forces, which have taken on the bulk of fighting since international troops ended most combat operations last year, have struggled to contain the Taliban, which has stretched the army in a series of operations across the country.
Having briefly taken Kunduz at the end of September, the Taliban last week threatened the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, cutting off the main route between Kabul and Kandahar for three days.
Earlier this week, they were also reported to have overrun the district of Ghormach in Faryab province on the northern border with Turkmenistan.
The deteriorating security situation prompted US President Barack Obama last week to delay plans to pull American forces out of the country next year, with at least 5,500 troops now due to remain after 2017.
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— The Daily Mail - People's Daily