This will be Sharif's first visit to Afghanistan since he came into power in May. He would hold talks with Karzai and members of High Peace Council on bilateral relations and the peace process following withdrawal of the US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan.

Prior to his departure, Sharif told reporters here that peace in Afghanistan is a priority for Pakistan and all efforts would be taken to accomplish that.

The Prime Minister is accompanied by Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and other officials. Mahmood Khan Achakzai, a member of the National Assembly, is also accompanying him.

Sharif's visit is taking place at a time when important political and security transitions are underway in Afghanistan‚ marked by forthcoming elections and NATO/ISAF troop drawdown in 2014.
    
Karzai is engaged in a public dispute with the US over a security deal covering the role of American soldiers who will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 drawdown. Afghanistan sees Pakistan as a critical for the ongoing peace process with the Taliban.

Sharif had met a visiting delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council in Islamabad last week.
    
The Peace Council is mandated with holding negotiations with the Taliban insurgents who have fought US-led NATO and Afghan forces since 2001. However, the Taliban has publicly refused to hold talks with the Afghan government calling them "American puppets".

Pakistan said that it recently released former Taliban number two Mullah Baradar, who is seen by Kabul as important man to could bring the militants to the negotiating table. Pakistan also released three more senior Taliban commanders last week.

Sharif had last met with Karzai at the Trilateral Summit in London on October 29.

"The two leaders will hold in-depth consultations on all issues of common interest, including the evolving situation in the region and ways to further deepen and broaden Pakistan- Afghanistan bilateral relations in all dimensions," a statement released by the Foreign Office said.

The statement said that Sharif will also meet a delegation of Afghan High Peace Council, led by its chairman Salahuddin Rabbani. It said that peace and stability in Afghanistan are in Pakistan's vital interest.
    
"Pakistan has extended consistent support for the promotion of Afghan peace and reconciliation process and remains committed to working with Afghanistan as well as international partners for sustainable peace and development in Afghanistan," it said.

On the bilateral plane, the Prime Minister has emphasized that Pakistan-Afghanistan relations should be underpinned by a strong trade and economic partnership.

Bilateral trade has witnessed a growth in recent years and reached USD 2.44 billion in 2012. It has the potential to grow further in the coming years.

(Agencies)

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