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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office expressed the hope on Thursday that the Afghan Taliban would avail themselves of Kabul’s unconditional offer of talks to find a politically-negotiated solution of the protracted conflict.

Speaking at the weekly media briefing, FO Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said: “We hope that Taliban would grab the opportunity for the unconditional peace talks.”

The United States has once again ramped up pressure on Pakistan to either convince the militant group to join peace talks or expel their leaders and other cadres that it believed to be based here.

Denies knowledge of Nawaz seeking asylum in UK

The US sees Pakistan-based Taliban as the main obstacle to initiation of peace process in Afghanistan.

Senior State Department official Alice Wells earlier this week visited Islamabad and met senior political and military leaders and some of the foreign ambassadors. Ahead of her visit, she, according to Reuters, said that US had so far not seen “sustained and decisive action on the part of Islamabad”.

Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal met on Wednesday to follow up on their discussions with Amb Wells. The US officials had met both of them separately during her visit.

Dr Faisal said that Pakistan was ready to play its part, but bringing Taliban to the negotiating table was the shared responsibility of all stakeholders.

This year’s unprecedented Eid ceasefire had raised hopes of peace in Afghanistan, but those hopes were dashed after Taliban resumed attacks immediately after Eid.

President Ashraf Ghani ordered continuation of counterterrorism operations last week after Taliban did not reciprocate his gesture.

Kashmir

The FO spokesman again called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an independent international commission of inquiry for India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had last month recommended setting up of a ‘Commission of Inquiry’, the UN’s highest-level probe, to investigate human rights violations in Kashmir.

“It is essential for the UNSG and the UNHRC to visit IOK to ensure the credibility of the international multilateral system and to prevent the human rights charter from being reduced to verbal rhetoric,” Dr Faisal said.

In reply to a question about a claim attributed to former president Asif Ali Zardari, the FO spokesman denied having any knowledge about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

“It is not obligatory on the country wherein the political asylum is taken to inform the country of origin,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2018