ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban’s office in Doha has been revived and the Taliban are now holding initial talks with the Afghan government, with Pakistan acting as facilitator, Dawn has learnt.
A top Pakistani official privy to the expected dialogue between Afghan Taliban and Afghan government confirmed the resumption of initial contacts between the two parties for devising the rules and agenda of formal talks expected to begin in March 2015.
"Yes I can confirm Taliban’s Doha office has been revived and now with the facilitation of Pakistan, Afghan Taliban are holding initial talks with senior Afghan government officials to chalk out the strategy and set rules for formal talks," the official told Dawn on condition of anonymity.
Another official said Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif had given the green signal for facilitating the resumption of dialogue when he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul earlier this week.
The official also confirmed that the Afghan Taliban have held two rounds of talks with senior officials in Beijing, and Pakistan was taken on board by Chinese officials about the conclusion of the talks held in the Chinese capital.
Details reveal that in the initial level talks, the Afghan Taliban are being represented by Qari Din Mohammad from the Taliban political office in Doha who also went to China in late November, 2014 to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
Qari Din Muhammad also held a meeting with senior US diplomats in Doha this week.
Islamabad, Beijing, Doha and Dubai are the possible venue for talks, and a final destination would be decided by the end of this month.
When asked for comments, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said Pakistan has vital stakes in peace and stability in Afghanistan and is ready to provide whatever assistance it can.
“We are ready to facilitate the reconciliation process to the possible extent,” she confirmed.
Pakistan military’s public affairs wing had issued a rare statement on Thursday in response to the reports surfacing in the international media that Gen Raheel Sharif, during his visit to Kabul, had indicated to the Afghan leadership that Taliban might be willing to open reconciliation process.
“While onus for such negotiations to succeed lies on both parties concerned, Pakistan in all sincerity will support the process, as peace in Afghanistan will contribute to peace in the region. We hope all stakeholders will continue to act with responsibility not to allow detractors of peace to succeed,” a military spokesman had said.
However, an Afghan Taliban spokesperson had said on Thursday that the reports stating the leadership of the faction is willing to hold peace talks with US officials were fabricated. Zabiullah Mujahid denied the reports saying that reports of the faction pushing for peace talks are false.
Meanwhile, China is also making efforts to help prevent neighbouring Afghanistan from sliding into complete chaos after Western forces ended their combat mission in the mountainous nation last year.
"We will support the Afghan government in realising reconciliation with various political factions, including the Taliban," Wang Yi had said during a visit to Pakistan last week. "China is ready to play a constructive role and will provide the necessary facilitation at any time if required by various parties in Afghanistan."