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Senior Pakistani politician meets reclusive Taliban supreme leader in Afghanistan


ISLAMABAD (AP) — A senior Pakistani politician met the Taliban supreme leader in Afghanistan, the politician’s office said Saturday. It’s the second publicly known meeting between a foreign official and the reclusive Hibatullah Akhundzada, who rarely appears in public and seldom leaves the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

It’s also the first known meeting between Akhundzada and a Pakistani delegation.

Fazlur Rehman is the first senior Pakistani politician to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power in 2021. His Jamiat Ulema Islam party is known for backing them.

The Taliban have not confirmed the meeting with Akhundzada. Rehman’s party did not say if it was in Kandahar or the capital Kabul.

Rehman went to Afghanistan in an effort to reduce tensions between the two countries. Pakistan last November began expelling foreigners living in the country without documents, mostly Afghans, to the fury of the Taliban. The two sides have also traded blame over an increase in militant attacks in Pakistan.

Rehman’s office released the text of an interview he gave to the Taliban-controlled Radio Television of Afghanistan.

“The meeting with Hibatullah Akhundzada has been very positive,” he said, according to the text. “I received great support from Mullah Hibatullah, for which I am grateful. We have to move forward now by putting an end to old resentments.”

Confirmation of the meeting did not appear in the TV interview, which was broadcast on Saturday night.

Rehman said he did not go to Afghanistan on behalf of the Pakistani government, which knew about his visit, but he said he had its approval.

A spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said last week that Rehman was visiting Afghanistan in a private capacity at the invitation of authorities.