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Afghanistan recalls envoy, diplomats from Pakistan after abduction of ambassador’s daughter

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Afghanistan has withdrawn its ambassador and diplomats from Pakistan’s capital following the kidnapping of the ambassador’s daughter, the Afghan foreign ministry has said, a new blow to relations at a sensitive time for the Afghan peace process.

Silsila Alikhil, the daughter of Najib Alikhil, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, was seized on Friday and held for several hours by unidentified assailants who left her with injuries and rope marks. Pakistan authorities have said they are investigating the incident.

“The Afghan government recalled the ambassador and senior diplomats to Kabul until the complete elimination of the security threats, including the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators,” the Afghan foreign ministry said.

Alikhil was on her way home in the Pakistani capital when she was kidnapped, the ministry said on Saturday, adding that she was under medical care in hospital after being released.

“The abduction of Afgn ambassador’s daughter & her subsequent torture has wounded the psyche of our nation. Our national psyche has been tortured,” Afghanistan’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Twitter.

An Afghan delegation will visit Pakistan to assess the situation after which “more steps will be taken,” Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has assigned the Alikhil matter a top priority and said he wants the culprits caught within 48 hours, the interior minister said on Saturday.

Pakistan is considered a key player in the peace process in Afghanistan, where the Taliban group has taken over territory in the weeks since US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops by September 11.

The neighbouring countries have long had frosty ties. Kabul accuses Pakistan of allowing safe havens for the Taliban, while Islamabad accuses Kabul of allowing armed groups to use their territory to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Pakistan has been acknowledged for helping bring the Taliban to the negotiating table for peace talks that began in Qatar last year, but negotiations have failed to make substantive progress and the Taliban has ramped up offensives.

“An Afghan delegation will visit Pakistan soon to assess and follow up on the (kidnapping) case and all related issues; subsequent actions will follow based on the findings,” the Afghan foreign ministry said Sunday.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack that has dealt a fresh blow to the fragile relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan that is marred by suspicion and acrimony.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry, responding to Kabul’s recalling of its diplomats, described it as “unfortunate and regrettable.” The ministry said in a statement it hoped the Afghan government would reconsider the decision.

“The reported abduction and assault of ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad is being investigated and followed-up at the highest level on the instructions of the prime minister (Imran Khan),” it said.

Pakistani officials said security for the Afghan ambassador, his family and personnel of other diplomatic missions of Afghanistan in the country has been further tightened.

Bilateral diplomatic tensions have deteriorated in the wake of stepped-up attacks by Taliban insurgents against Afghan government forces amid the drawdown of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Kabul routinely accuses Islamabad of allowing the Taliban to use Pakistani soil for directing attacks on the Afghan side of the long border between the two countries.

Pakistan accuses authorities in Afghanistan of sheltering fugitive militants and allowing them to plot cross-border terrorist attacks.

Analysts said the rising diplomatic bilateral tensions do not bode well for peace efforts in Afghanistan.

The Taliban condemned the kidnapping, urging Pakistan to arrest and punish the perpetrators, the group’s spokesman Mohammad Naeem said via Twitter.