ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged Wednesday to increase the cooperation of their intelligence agencies and tighten border controls in an effort to crack down on Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants along the two countries' chaotic border region.
"People from both the countries are suffering under the hands of extremism and terrorism," Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told a joint news conference after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Islamabad.
Afghan officials have repeatedly said Taliban- and Al Qaeda-linked militants use bases inside Pakistan to orchestrate attacks against Karzai's U.S.-backed government.
In a speech last week, Karzai said militant sanctuaries were located beyond Afghanistan's borders and he wanted the U.S.-led fight against terrorism "to go after their shelters ... and training centers."
On Wednesday, Karzai said that while militant activity in Afghanistan was decreasing, it was rising on the Pakistani side of the border.
Pakistan has denied the Afghan charges, but its security officials have acknowledged that local tribal fighters and militants of Arab, Afghan and Central Asian origin operate in the country's tribal regions along the Afghan border.
Karzai landed at an air base near the capital, Islamabad, Wednesday afternoon at the start of his two-day visit here.
A recent U.S. intelligence report indicated that Al Qaeda may be regrouping in North Waziristan, a tribal region where militants have staged almost daily attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent months.
When he declared a state of emergency in November, Musharraf cited the fight against increasing militancy in the country's northwestern areas close to Afghanistan.
The emergency has been lifted, but Pakistan has seen a spate of suicide attacks in recent weeks. One bomber struck a crowded mosque Friday, killing 56 people.
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday accused Musharraf of failing to stop the spread of Islamic militancy and promised to crack down on extremist groups if she wins Jan. 8 parliamentary elections.
About 200 international observers, including dozens of journalists, will arrive in Pakistan to monitor the January vote, said Mohammed Sadiq, spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.
Bhutto, a former prime minister who returned from exile to lead her opposition party in the poll, told about 4,000 supporters that extremism and terror flourished across the country since Musharraf seized power eight years ago in a military coup.
"The areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan became a haven for extremists, and the extremism and terrorism is flowing down into other areas," she said.
If elected, her party would clear the extremists from Pakistan, she said.
Speaking Tuesday, Musharraf said his government was working to tackle the ongoing challenge posed by Islamic extremists.
"We are facing this internal threat and tackling the situation tactfully," he said in a speech.
Meanwhile, a small bomb exploded at a cable television office Wednesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar, causing no injuries, police said.
Islamic militants have recently begun attacking music shops, billboards with images of women and other businesses they believe violates their extreme interpretation of Islamic law.