ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan announced on Thursday conflicting dates for holding the inaugural round of quadrilateral dialogue, which also involves the United States and China, on resumption of the Afghan reconciliation process.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at a press conference in Kabul, said the meeting would be held in Islamabad on Jan 11.
Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, meanwhile, in a policy statement in the Senate on the visit of Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif to Kabul, said Islamabad would host the four-nation talks on Jan 16.
In his meetings with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah during the weekend trip, Gen Sharif had discussed the roadmap for restarting the reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Successful reconciliation process is the best bet against IS which is expanding its footprints in Afghanistan, says Asif
The meeting of the coordination committee of the newly formed quadrilateral mechanism would be held at the level of senior officials. Afghanistan has announced that its delegation would be led by its deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai. Pakistan is expected to be represented at the meeting by the foreign secretary.
The second round of the talks would be held in Kabul, President Ghani said.
The Foreign Office spokesman had earlier at the weekly briefing said: “Consultations are under way to host the first meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Committee in Islamabad in the second week of January. Exact date is being worked out in consultation with Afghanistan, China and the US. The level, composition and agenda of the meeting are also being worked out through consultations.”
The four-nation process was established earlier this month on the sidelines of Heart of Asia Conference when Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China agreed on devising a mechanism under which they could work together for the resumption of reconciliation process.
Speaking in the Senate, the defence minister said the quadrilateral meeting would decide about the responsibilities and roles of the four stakeholders in the process that would be led by the Afghans with the other three playing the role of facilitators.
Mr Asif told legislators that clergy would be asked to issue a religious decree (fatwa) endorsing the peace process.
He did not specify, which clerics would be asked for the decree, but noted that such edicts got lot of importance in Afghanistan.
The minister said that a successful reconciliation process was the best bet against the militant Islamic State (IS) group (also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh) that was expanding its footprints in Afghanistan. IS, he said, now had presence in five Afghan provinces.
He said Pakistan would use all means at its disposal to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2016