Islamabad: US ally Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is expected to fly to Kabul this weekend to attend a key gathering of Pakistani and Afghan politicians and tribesmen discussing ways to combat al-Qaeda and Taliban attacks.
Musharraf had pulled out of the four-day joint jirga, or council, which began on Thursday, citing pressing engagements at home. His absence was seen as a blow to the meeting, already hit by a boycott by some Pakistani tribal elders.
But Musharraf agreed “in principle” to address the concluding session of the jirga this weekend after receiving a call from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.
“President Karzai said that the President’s personal participation would be a source of support and encouragement for the Jirga process,” the ministry said in a statement late on Friday.
Hours after calling off the visit to Kabul on Wednesday, reports swept across Pakistan that Musharraf, passing through the toughest patch of his eight-year rule, planned to impose emergency rule.
He faces growing bomb and suicide attacks by Islamist militants across the country after a bloody assault on Islamabad’s Red Mosque, a militant stronghold, last month.
In another blow to Musharraf, the Supreme Court has reinstated the country’s chief justice after the president tried to sack him in March.
Musharraf rejected calls for imposing the emergency rule after consulting his aides on Friday. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also telephoned Musharraf and discussed political developments in Pakistan.
Late last year, Musharraf and Karzai agreed to call a joint jirga to bring together the two often feuding, but important US allies to seek a common strategy against al -Qaeda and the Taliban.
Afghan officials often accuse Pakistan of harbouring Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in order to keep its neighbour weak.
Musharraf has also been under mounting US pressure to step up action against militants in Pakistan’s border regions with Afghanistan.
Some US politicians suggested US strikes inside Pakistan, drawing a sharp rebuke from Islamabad.
Pakistan has repeatedly ruled out allowing foreign troops to operate in its territory and said its forces are fully capable of deal with the militants.
Analysts and diplomats warned against high expectations from the jirga, saying it was just a first step towards a unified approach to combating militants who threaten security in both countries.
A jirga is a traditional meeting among the Pashtun tribes that live on both sides of the border, where elders rule by consensus to try to settle disputes peacefully.