ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting, attended by top security and and civil officials, to discuss Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan as the Heart of Asia Conference kicks off in Islamabad, said a statement by the PM Office.
The meeting was called to discuss and evaluate arrangements for the conference, which is being attended by top officials from ten countries, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
The high-level meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, National Security Advisor Lt Gen (r) Nasir Janjua, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi.
PM Nawaz, in his address to the conference, is expected to discuss Pakistan's policy on Afghanistan.
The prime minister consulted the army leadership and security advisers to hash out Pakistan’s stance, particularly regarding Afghanistan and India. Nawaz will be meeting Afghan President Ghani and Indian FM Swaraj during and after the conference.
The meeting focused on Pakistan's relations with its neighbours in light of recent talks and upcoming dialogue opportunities, instead of security related matters.
Lt Gen (r) Nasir Janjua also briefed the attendees about progress on the stalled NSA talks between India and Pakistan and about talks held with his Indian counterpart in Bangkok.
Also read: Pakistan, India NSAs hold talks in Bangkok
Later, PM Nawaz and COAS Gen Raheel Sharif met one-on-one to discuss security-related matters, said a a release by the PM Office.
The Heart of Asia conference, which will be attended by representatives from ten different countries, is being hosted by Pakistan for the first time in its history.
Afghan reconciliation and Pakistan's role
Pakistan has been instrumental in facilitating peace talks between Afghanistan and the insurgents.
Pakistan had hosted a round of talks between the Afghan Government and Afghan Taliban representatives in Murree on July 7, 2015, along with the representatives from China and USA.
The participants were duly mandated by their respective leadership and expressed their collective desire to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region. The second round of the talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on July 31, 2015, was postponed in view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the leadership crisis among Taliban.
In November, Pakistan and the United States agreed to work together for an early resumption of the stalled Afghan reconciliation process, during Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif's visit to the United States where he held extensive discussions with key figures of the Obama administration, including Vice President Joe Biden.
Gen Sharif is believed to have communicated Pakistan’s fears in accepting the facilitation role that it is expected to play for reviving the process of Afghanistan's peace talks. The Pakistani side is primarily concerned about the Afghan security establishment thwarting a renewed process.
At least three major initiatives – the first attempt in February to kick-start the reconciliation process, the ISI-NDS (the Afghan intelligence agency) cooperation agreement in May, and the reconciliation process itself, Pakistanis believe, failed because of conspiracies hatched by elements in Afghanistan, who are opposed to a political settlement with the Taliban.
The two sides (Pakistan and US), however, have not set any timeframe for getting back on track the talks process due to repeated incidents of disruption.
The Heart of Asia Conference, however, is expected to cover a lot of ground on the matter, a senior diplomatic source told Dawn.
A concerted diplomatic push for resumption of reconciliation process is clearly afoot.