“President Karzai has asked Pakistan repeatedly to cooperate in going after militant strongholds, but both Imran and Nawaz say they want to solve the problem through negotiations,” said Waheed Mojdah, an Afghan political analyst. “That means letting Pakistani militants come into Afghanistan to support the Taliban. It means more tensions and problems for us.”
Pakistan has long denied backing anti-Kabul militants and has accused Afghanistan of exporting its problems across the border. In recent weeks, several clashes have erupted between Afghan security forces and Pakistanis manning border outposts, resulting in the death of an Afghan police officer. The violence triggered protests in Afghan cities and reignited a perennial dispute over a British-drawn boundary known as the Durand Line.
Despite its cordial language, Karzai’s message to Sharif this week focused pointedly on the issue of Pakistan sheltering anti-Afghan militants in the tribal border region. He has complained about this covert policy to Sharif’s predecessors for a decade and has met with repeated denials. After the recent violence, he angrily suggested that the Taliban “turn and take aim” at the “real enemy” across the border.
Sharif, despite his experience on the world stage, is also widely viewed here as a religious fundamentalist who has coddled Islamic groups. He was repeatedly quoted during his campaign as vowing to withdraw Pakistan from the U.S.-led war on international terrorism.
“Sharif has been extremely ambiguous on the issue of extremism,” said Imtiaz Gul, an author and director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “His people will have to come clean on what they think are the real threats to Pakistan.”
A few Afghans said this week that they wished Sharif well and hoped his election would provide a fresh start for bilateral relations. Pakistani leaders often point out that both countries have suffered from terrorism and that establishing peace and security in Afghanistan would also benefit Pakistan. Perhaps at age 63, one man said hopefully, an older and wiser Sharif will take those slogans seriously.
“If he continues his past policies, not only will we suffer, but they will, too,” said Obaidullah Ramin, a lawmaker and former aide to Karzai. “He needs to learn from his past times in power and chart an honest, sincere strategy with Afghanistan.”
Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad and Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul contributed to this report.