NEW DELHI: Pakistan and Afghanistan relations, which have seen marked improvement in the last few months, took a major blow following the confirmation of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar which resulted in a spate of violent attacks across Afghanistan. Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who has been reaching out to Pakistan despite overt criticism, hit out at the neighbouring country for sending "messages of war" and harbouring bomb-making camps, adding that Pakistan had failed to reign in the Taliban.

The volte face was prompted by news of Omar’s death, which put on hold a difficult and nascent but confirmed peace dialogue between Afghan officials and the Taliban -- the first of its kind in the thirteen years since the Taliban was ousted. Pakistan announced that the talks had been postponed, and Afghanistan faced a particularly bloody weekend immediately after the confirmation, where h over a 100 people killed in a wave of attacks, including three separate bombings in the capital Kabul in one day that killed at least 77 people; a suicide bombing targeting a militia in the northern province of Kunduz that killed at least 29; and a car bomb that exploded outside the airport in Kabul killing five. Afghanistan has longed blamed Pakistan for aiding the Afghan Taliban, and Ghani therefore, was forced to harshly criticise the neighbouring country following the violence.

Ghani also sent a high-level to Pakistan to address Afghanistan’s concerns, but the delegation received a lukewarm response by the Pakistanis, reportedly because of the harsh language used by Ghani against the neighbouring country.

Reports in Pakistani media, however, indicate that Pakistan and Afghanistan may be ready to attempt a conciliation. An article in Dawn News states: “Contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan will resume later this week if Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz leaves for Kabul to attend the sixth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA). “We are mulling over an invitation to RECCA conference,” a senior diplomat said on Monday. Two RECCA conferences will be held followed by a ministerial meeting, on Sept 3 and 4.”

A meeting between Pakistani and Afghan officials is expected to take place on the sidelines of the event, “to address issues that have disrupted the process of normalisation of relations between the two countries.”

This news comes as international pressure pushing for Afghanistan and Pakistan to mend relations, levelled largely by the US, grows.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have shared a shaky relationship, with a large number of Afghans blaming Pakistan for supporting and hence perpetrating the Taliban. Ghani decided to reach out to Pakistan despite the criticism, with some going so far as to accuse Ghani of sleeping with the enemy.

Ghani’s decision to improve ties is directly linked to Pakistan’s influence over the insurgent, which, in turn, is ironically he main source of ammunition for Ghani’s anti-Pakistan critics. When Ghani came to power in September last year, he quickly signalled a change in policy. Ghani soon after being sworn-in visited Pakistan, and then Pakistan’s army chief and head of intelligence visited Kabul. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tense equation had sunk to an all-time low under the presidency of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Karzai had been openly critical of Pakistan -- accusing the neighbouring country of supporting the Afghan Taliban and providing refuge to the group’s leadership.

Delegations from the two countries made visits across the border; six Afghan army cadets were sent to Pakistan for training; military efforts were coordinated across the shared border; and Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif both issued statements in support of cooperation and bilateral ties.

The two countries recently signed an agreement between Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) -- a move widely criticised by the camp opposing the betterment of ties.

The shift in policy seemed to be bearing fruit, with reports circulating that the Afghan Taliban -- under pressure from Pakistan was on the verge of agreeing to talks with the Afghan leadership. This was huge. For the first time in thirteen years -- since the US invasion of Afghanistan -- the Taliban, which has thus far maintained that the Afghan government is illegitimate, was ready to initiate a peace process.

Then Ghani’s trip to Washington happened, where US President Barack Obama announced the decision to slow troop withdrawal. The Taliban, in turn, issued a statement vowing to continue fighting. "This damages all the prospects for peace, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of the announcement. “This means the war will go on until they are defeated.”

All this has been the source of much criticism. In an interview with The Guardian, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- said that the country’s historic struggles against British imperialism and Soviet invasion will have been in vain if it succumbs to pressure from Pakistan.

This view was echoed by Karzai’s associates who sat in on the interview. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, a former foreign minister and national security adviser said that the policy amounts to the humiliating “appeasement” of a hostile power who would never change its ways. In a similar vein, Omar Daudzai, one of the most influential officials of the Karzai era who served as chief of staff and interior minister, predicts, “There could be a bloody summer, there will be fighting and there will be disappointments on the dialogue table from time to time.” Daudzai, a former ambassador to Islamabad, added that whilst he thought Ghani’s attempts to woo Pakistan were “courageous,” they would ultimately fail to change the country’s behaviour. “He has taken controversial steps that his predecessor didn’t take, and now we have to wait to see whether the Pakistani side is sincere or not,” he said. “But I am far more sceptical than I ever was before about Pakistan’s sincerity.”

And this is by no means an isolated view. An important figure within Afghanistan, Karzai echoes a distrust that runs deep with the Afghan people.

And while the world optimistically hoped that Ghani’s changed strategy would lead to concrete results, the latest flare up is proof of the pudding that is not easy on a solution to insurgency in the region, and a reminder that Pakistan is perhaps not yet ready to entirely cooperate.