ISLAMABAD: US Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has postponed the Pakistan leg of his tour to the region — aimed at taking forward efforts for initiating an intra-Afghan dialogue — citing “scheduling” issues.
“The visit is being postponed for scheduling reasons. Ambassador Khalilzad anticipates returning to Pakistan in the near future,” US embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said.
Ambassador Khalilzad embarked on the trip last Thursday by travelling to Afghanistan. Besides Pakistan, he was to travel to the UAE and Qatar before returning to Washington on Nov 20. Now that he would not be coming to Pakistan, he was continuing with the remaining part of the tour.
The envoy was due in Islamabad over the weekend. The US side, a source said, was told at the “eleventh hour” that the key people Ambassador Khalilzad wanted to meet would be travelling at that time.
PM Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi are expected to travel to Malaysia next week.
Pakistan had after Ambassador Khalilzad’s visit last month set free former Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar. Commenting on Baradar’s release, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal had said: “His (Baradar’s) release was facilitated by Pakistan at the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan. This decision was taken following the visit of the US Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation, Ambassador Khalilzad, to the region and his meetings with Taliban representatives in Doha.”
Mr Faisal had added that Baradar was released to provide impetus to the peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan would continue to pursue reconciliatory efforts to expedite and facilitate the process to the fullest ability.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018