Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik
Pakistan's interior minister has said elements of the Afghan government are likely supporting a senior Pakistani Taliban leader who is fighting to topple the Islamabad government, accusations which could further raise tensions over cross-border raids by militants.
Pakistani officials say the Taliban commander known as Fazlullah has been orchestrating raids on Pakistani security forces from Afghanistan, where he fled several years ago after a Pakistani army offensive against his stronghold in the Swat Valley, reports Reuters.
Pakistan has repeatedly called on Afghanistan to hunt down Fazlullah, whose fighters cross the border in their hundreds, set up ambushes and attack army checkpoints.
"If somebody is living in somebody's house and you ask him 'who is giving you food, who is giving you all this shelter?' You know he is in Afghanistan," Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters in a weekend interview.
"I think some of the elements (of the Afghan government) there are supporters. Maybe state actors, maybe non-state actors."
Afghan officials see Pakistan's suggestion that Afghans are supporting cross-border attacks as an attempt to distract attention from what they say is Pakistan's long history of supporting Afghanistan's Taliban movement and other insurgent factions.
U.S. and Afghan officials say there is no comparison between the relatively small and recent presence of Fazlullah's men in eastern Afghanistan and what they describe as long-standing ties between elements of Pakistani intelligence and the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan's intelligence agencies backed the emergence of Afghanistan's Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and Western officials believe that parts of the security establishment continue to tolerate or actively abet Afghan insurgents.
Malik provided no evidence to support his assertion that elements within Afghanistan were supporting Fazlullah, nor did he give further details.
"These comments made by the Pakistani Interior Minister are irresponsible and a baseless allegation," said Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.
"Afghanistan has been under attacks from safe havens of insurgents inside Pakistan, and we are quite sure that Mullah Fazlullah is somewhere in Pakistan."
Fazlullah and other militant leaders based along the frontier complicate U.S. efforts to stabilize the region before most NATO combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The issue has strained ties between Islamabad and Kabul.
Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of backing militants said to be based on its soil who cross the border to attack Afghan and NATO forces, including the Haqqani network, blamed for a series of high-profile attacks on Kabul.
Islamabad denies the allegations.
Pakistan's reluctance to bow to U.S. pressure to take tougher action against sanctuaries used by Haqqani insurgents and other Afghan fighters has been one of the major reasons for a sharp deterioration in relations with Washington.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday he accepted parliament's decision to dismiss the country's two top security ministers for failing to stop cross-border shelling blamed on Pakistan, in what could be a blow to NATO plans to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.