Islamabad, Feb 28 (IANS) Afghanistan did not send any high-level representation in the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit here amid high tension between the two nations following terror attacks in Pakistan.
Neither Afghan President Ashraf Ghani nor Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah would take part in the event, to be attended by 10 member nations on Wednesday, Dawn online reported.
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani would also stay away from the summit. A session of the council of ministers is being held on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan and President’s special envoy Omar Zakhilwal would attend the meeting, Pakistani officials said on Monday as a meeting of senior officials of participating countries concluded.
Heads of states or governments of all other member countries, except Uzbekistan whose Deputy Prime Minister is coming for the summit, have confirmed their participation.
The already tense relations with Afghanistan got further frayed earlier this month following a spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Islamabad blamed militants operating in Afghanistan for the attacks.
Soon after the February 15 attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh province in which 88 persons died, the Pakistan Army closed border crossings with Afghanistan due to security concerns.
The army also pounded on terrorist hideouts across the border in Afghanistan.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had over the weekend said Pakistan and Afghanistan were negotiating a joint mechanism for dealing with terrorism.
He expressed hope that progress would take place on the sidelines of the summit.
Kabul has so far been weighing whether or not it should attend at the highest level.
Aziz had earlier said Rabbani’s participation was confirmed, but Pakistan was expecting higher level attendance.
“We want Afghanistan to join this journey of prosperity as a peaceful neighbour,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said.
He said Islamabad wanted peace with Kabul and was ready to take efforts in that direction, but expected Afghanistan to prevent its soil from being used against Pakistan.
The ECO summit aims at promoting connectivity and cooperation in energy, infrastructure, transport and trade sectors.
“Such a high-level participation (in the ECO summit) is not common. It shows Pakistan was never isolated and would never be isolated. No one can do so,” the Foreign Secretary said, referring to India’s bid to isolate Pakistan in the international community.