ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is cautiously optimistic that the Taliban will soon agree to initiation of an intra-Afghan dialogue, which could pave the way for an eventual political settlement of the Afghan conflict that is in its 18th year.
“The Afghan peace process has reached a promising but delicate stage. Pakistan will continue to play a role in helping the peace efforts with the expectation that this can soon transition to the next critical stage: an intra-Afghan dialogue. The international consensus is firmly in favour of this,” Pakistan’s permanent representative at the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi told Dawn by phone.
A breakthrough is expected at the seventh round of talks between the United States and the Taliban expected to take place in Doha early next month. The six rounds held so far have remained stalemated because of Taliban’s refusal to talk to the Afghan government until the US gives a clear commitment and timeframe for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
According to the Voice of America, a two-day intra-Afghan meeting, which would include government representatives, is being scheduled for July 7. The meeting will follow the Taliban-US talks. It should be recalled that a similar meeting planned for April had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour because of the Taliban’s reservations over the composition of the dialogue.
US Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has, meanwhile, said: “As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, (it’s) important to remember (that) we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement.” He has emphasised that any deal would comprise “four inter-connected parts: counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a political settlement; and a comprehensive & permanent ceasefire”.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is due to visit Islamabad on June 27 for an attempt to reboot the bilateral relationship that has been deeply undermined by mutual mistrust.
Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2019