The meeting is taking place following the Chinese and Afghan foreign ministers’ arrival in Islamabad.
In addition to attending the fifth round of the trilateral dialogue between the three countries on Saturday, the two foreign ministers will also participate in bilateral discussions with their Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
“The government of Afghanistan wants to hold comprehensive talks on bilateral political-commercial relations, regional stability and transit between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Ziad Ahmad Takkal, deputy spokesperson of the Afghan foreign ministry, said on Friday.
While this will be the Chinese foreign minister’s first visit to Pakistan, Muttaqi last travelled to Pakistan in November 2021, just a few months after the Afghan Taliban took control in Kabul.
The visit to Pakistan by the Afghan minister comes in the same week the UN hosted a conference on Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar, without inviting the country’s Taliban rulers.
Addressing the Doha conference on May 2, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the Taliban’s suppression of women’s rights in Afghanistan, including the ban on education.
“Let me be crystal clear, we will never be silent in the face of unprecedented systemic attacks on women’s and girls’ rights. We’ll always speak out when millions of women and girls are being silenced and erased from sight,” Guterres said.
“The meeting was about developing a common international approach, not about recognition of the de facto Taliban authorities,” Guterres told reporters in Doha.
Authorities in Pakistan allege the attacks are launched from within Afghan territory by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an armed group ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban. However, despite the exchange of terse words between the authorities of both countries, Pakistan has continued to hold talks with the Afghan Taliban without officially recognising them as the country’s lawful government.
In his address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in India on Friday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bhutto-Zardari urged the international community to “meaningfully engage” with the interim Afghan government.
Abdul Syed, an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan, said Muttaqi’s visit to Islamabad was an important development in relations between the two countries, particularly in light of recent tensions.
“After TTP’s repeated attacks in the last few months and the Police Line [an area in the city where important government installations are located] bombing in Peshawar in January this year, Pakistan raised objections with the Afghan government. But they were given brusque responses from Muttaqi. So, for him to make this visit now can be seen as a softening of stance and positive progress,” the Sweden-based Syed told Al Jazeera.
China, the third participant in the dialogue, also has significant interests in the other two countries.
Beijing is Pakistan’s key economic and defence partner and has invested heavily in Pakistan, headlining with $60bn in the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. However, multiple attacks by armed groups have targeted Chinese nationals and their interests in Pakistan in recent years.
A Chinese firm signed a multimillion-dollar investment contract in January this year, the first significant foreign investment in the country since August 2021 when the Taliban took over.
In March 2022, then-Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi also made a surprise visit to Kabul where he met the Taliban leaders “to discuss various issues, including the extension of political relations, economic, and transit cooperation”.
Some observers believe that the Chinese involvement in Afghanistan is more to do with security concerns than economic interests.
ETIM is an al-Qaeda-affiliated armed group that has conducted attacks on China in its pursuit of the creation of “East Turkistan” on the Chinese mainland.
“China has maintained its diplomatic presence… with the Afghan contact group and other multilateral forums under the SCO and beyond, which means the Chinese are well placed to at least mitigate immediate security threats,” Raza told Al Jazeera.
In the aftermath of the UN conference in Doha, which excluded the Taliban, Raza believes non-engagement with Afghanistan’s leadership is unproductive.
“Regardless of what the UN have done, there is a need to socialise the Taliban into the international norms without extending them full diplomatic recognition. In the absence of domestic opposition and sufficient regional support, the policy of non-engagement will hardly have the desired impacts,” he said.
“Similarly, though, the Afghan Taliban too realise that despite any diplomatic progress they make in the region, it is imperative upon them to maintain cordial ties with Pakistan.”