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Pakistan-aided US-Taliban talks set to begin: PM

Updated December 15, 2018


PRIME Minister Imran Khan speaks on the occasion.—INP
PRIME Minister Imran Khan speaks on the occasion.—INP

PESHAWAR: Nearly two weeks after receiving a letter from President Donald Trump seeking Pakistan’s support in securing a negotiated settlement to the war in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has confirmed that Pakistan is facilitating talks between the United States and Afghan Taliban, which are set to begin on Monday.

Speaking at a function held to mark the completion of 100 days of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday, the prime minister said America had recently asked him to facilitate peace negotiations with the Taliban. He said the US used to pressurise Pakistan to “do more” but it was due to a clear stance of the PTI government that the Amer­icans had started req­ues­ting him to facilitate talks with the Afghan Taliban.

He did not divulge details of the negotiations, but sources confided to Dawn that talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US would be held in Dubai. Representatives of the US government and Afghan Taliban had earlier met in Doha, where Taliban maintain their offices.

Imran says Americans used to ask Pakistan to ‘do more’, but now due to clear stand taken by PTI govt they want Islamabad to facilitate negotiations in Afghanistan

KP Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, federal and provincial ministers, party’s parliamentarians and workers attended the function at Nishtar Hall, where provincial finance minister Taimur Khan Jhagra earlier unveiled a five-year plan of the KP government that required a total of Rs4 trillion investment in different sectors.

While chairing a meeting at KP Governor House, where reform process in the seven tribal districts was discussed, PM Khan said: “I am sure that Peshawar will become a hub of commerce and tourism in the region and will serve as gateway for trade with the Central Asian states after peace in Afghanistan.”

Terming the merger of erstwhile Fata with KP a “very tough” task, PM Khan said the federal government was going to the Supreme Court to challenge the Peshawar High Court decision that had declared Fata Interim Governance Regulation (FIGR) as ultra vires of the Constitution. PM Khan insisted that the area needed regulation to run the system for an interim period after the Fata-KP merger.

The PHC in its October 30 decision observed that the FIGR violated the constitutionally binding principles of separation of the judiciary from the executive by allowing commissioners and deputy commissioners to act as judges and council of elders to decide civil and criminal cases.

Mr Khan said that the KP governor, the chief minister, senators and MNAs from the seven merged districts would prepare a detailed roadmap for the area. He added that KP government’s Sehat Insaf Card facility was being extended to the seven tribal districts.

‘FC will be told to vacate Mughal-era fort’

While addressing KP cabinet members at a separate meeting, the prime minister termed tourism sector “future” of KP and said that the Mughal-era Bala Hissar Fort in Peshawar would be turned into a tourist attraction. He said the Frontier Corps would be told to vacate the fort by providing them an alternative piece of land. “Now I have powers to get the fort vacated from the FC,” he announced.

The prime minister said that Peshawar being one of the oldest living cities of the world would be developed to attract tourists.

PM Khan appreciated performance of CM Mahmood Khan, calling him a “very simple and honest” person. “I trust in [Punjab CM Usman] Buzdar and Mahmood Khan and they will spend funds with honesty,” he said, adding that he chose Mr Buzdar as CM because he belonged to poor background.

He warned the KP ministers to be punctual and dutiful or else they would be sacked. “The ministers should perform, otherwise, this time we have MPAs in large numbers who are aspirants of becoming ministers,” he said in a lighter vein.

He said the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had never given a second chance to a political party after its five-year rule but only the PTI was re-elected for a second time because of its performance. He expressed satisfaction over progress in the education sector during the past five years but insisted that the government would have to improve it further.

He said that KP Billion Tree Tsunami project was being replicated across the country and 10 billion trees would be planted during next five years to cope with the challenge of global warming. He said the government was managing funds to start work on Mohmand Dam’s construction. The reservoir once completed would resolve the water issue in Peshawar, he added.

He said availability of money would not be a problem if governance was improved and urged the bureaucracy to facilitate businesses. He said investment-friendly environment would create job opportunities.

Earlier, Mr Khan inaugurated Mehman Khana, a shelter home in Peshawar. He was informed on the occasion that the KP government would establish five shelter houses in the city, each with a capacity to accommodate 200 people.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2018