ISLAMABAD: The second round of Pakistan-Afghanistan talks on an engagement plan on peace and security issues ended on Saturday without making any headway on its key elements because the Afghan delegation felt that their priorities were not being addressed.

The two sides could not only agree on a joint statement to sum up the two-day proceedings, but gave divergent accounts about the outcome.

The Pakistani version came through Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal’s 12-word tweet that essentially said more needed to be done to bridge the difference of opinion with regards to the proposed Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). The tweet did not even say if the two sides would meet again and possibly when.

No joint statement issued; two sides come up with divergent accounts of outcome

“Pak-Afghanistan talks. Two days of good discussions. Some agreements. Further work required,” Dr Faisal tweeted.

The Afghan statement, meanwhile, said: “No progress was ach­iev­ed on specific, result-oriented, time-bound measures in the APAPPS, particularly in the areas of counterterrorism, reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation to meet the priorities of Afghanistan.”

The statement said that the only progress made in two rounds so far had been on the mechanism of the engagement.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai led their respective sides at the talks.

The APAPPS provides a blueprint for a Pak-Afghan engagement on counterterrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation and joint economic development. It is a Pakistani initiative for providing a framework for bilateral dialogue encompassing critical issues that have kept souring the ties.

The negotiations on the APAPPS had begun in Kabul last week. The two sides had on that occasion reported “some progress”, expressed the commitment to “continue their discussions to reach an agreement on the APAPPS” and fixed Feb 9-10 for further discussions in Islamabad.

At the start of the talks, the Foreign Office had expressed optimism about forward movement. “Engagement and dialogue is crucial for the way forward. Despite differences, it is a welcoming development that engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan is ongoing, of which we are hopeful,” the FO spokesman had then said.

The Afghan delegation, alongside the negotiations on the APAPPS, reportedly also talked about the recent attacks in Kabul, which they allege originated from Pakistan.

Afghan officials claim that their interior minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai had in a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Jan 31 handed over a list of individuals and madressahs suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

Dr Faisal had earlier said at a briefing that “the Afghan representatives have shared information with us during the recent visit. We will look into it and revert soon”.

A diplomatic source claimed that the impasse on the APAPPS was because Afghans were linking the investigation into Kabul attacks with any agreement on the engagement plan.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2018