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Pakistan engaged Taliban to get talks back on track

Updated June 28, 2013
— File Photo
— File Photo

ISLAMABAD, June 27: Pakistan remains engaged with the Taliban to put the Doha process back on track after the controversial opening of the insurgent group’s Doha office that deadlocked efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

A Pakistani official told Dawn on Thursday that negotiators were talking to the Taliban leadership to persuade them to get on with the talks with the Americans and the Afghan government.

“The process is continuing. In fact it is in everyone’s interest that the process remains alive,” the official said.

Taliban had initially agreed for talks with the US and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council on Pakistan’s prodding, but the row over the name of the office used in the opening ceremony and raising of a flag at the Doha office angered the Karzai government which cancelled the visit of its negotiators to Qatar and suspended talks with the US on a bilateral security arrangement.

Later, the Afghan government agreed to join the Doha process following US efforts to salvage the talks, but Taliban leaders have yet to come up with their formal response.

A transcript of an interview of a spokesman for the Taliban office in Doha, Dr Mohammed Naeem, posted on the group’s website indicated that the insurgent leadership was moving towards the start of talks both with the US and the Afghan government.

“Talks will be conducted with all sides involved in Afghanistan… meetings will be held with all Afghans according to the exigency of situation,” Dr Naeem said.

However, Taliban intention to use the office for “improving relations with the world countries” and their insistence on the controversial name could still prove to be sticking points for the beginning of the dialogue.

American sources say that Taliban, after 18-month-long talks on Doha office, had agreed that they would neither pose themselves as a government in exile – as they had tried to suggest by adopting the name of Political Office of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – or use the office as an embassy for reaching out to other countries.

The sole purpose of the office was to facilitate a political settlement of the Afghan war.

Among the other conditions agreed by Taliban, American sources say, was that they would meet the Afghan High Peace Council and sever relations with Al Qaeda.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said at his weekly briefing on Thursday: “We have affirmed our commitment to consider all possible measures that we believe would contribute to the reconciliation process in the larger interest of peace in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan, he said, considered these talks as an important step towards national reconciliation in Afghanis-tan.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins earlier this week visited Pakistan and sought Islamabad’s continued support for the troubled peace process.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after his meeting with Ambassador Dobbins, called President Karzai to reiterate Pakistan’s support for the process.

About the role played by Pakistan in the opening of Doha office, Mr Chaudhry said: “Doha process was facilitated by stressing on all stakeholders the need to hold dialogue to reconcile their positions in the interest of bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan.”