Afghan Taliban say will visit Pakistan if formally invited: BBC report

Published July 25, 2019
During his recent visit to the US, PM Imran Khan had expressed that the hope that Pakistan "will be able to urge the Taliban to talk with the Afghan government and come to a political solution". — AFP/File
During his recent visit to the US, PM Imran Khan had expressed that the hope that Pakistan "will be able to urge the Taliban to talk with the Afghan government and come to a political solution". — AFP/File

The Afghan Taliban have said that they will visit Pakistan and meet Prime Minister Imran Khan if they are formally invited for a meeting by Islamabad, BBC Urdu reported on Thursday, citing an official.

During his visit to the United States earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran had hinted at a possible meeting with the insurgents.

He had said he hoped that in the coming days, "we will be able to urge the Taliban to talk with the Afghan government and come to a political solution", a point that was promptly appreciated by US President Donald Trump — who noted that Pakistan had helped in the Afghan peace talks tremendously in recent weeks.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, told the BBC via telephone that members of the group would go to Pakistan if invited by the government.

"We visit regional and neighbouring countries from time to time, so if Pakistan formally invites us we will go because Pakistan too is our neighbour and a Muslim country," he was quoted as saying in the report.

Shaheen dismissed the idea that a meeting with Pakistani authorities would entail allegations that the militant group has Pakistan's support, saying such allegations will be levelled by "only the people who have no other justification to fight the Taliban".

He said although they don't allow anyone to interfere in their Islamic and national interests, "as concerned the process of establishing contact with other countries or neighbouring countries, we already have contacts with them and we want to have [the same]".

According to the BBC report, a delegation of the Afghan Taliban was set to visit Islamabad and meet the prime minister earlier in February as well, but Imran Khan had refused to meet them after the Afghan government expressed concern over the gathering. The meeting that is expected to take place in the coming days will be with the consent of the Afghan government, the report said.

After completing his maiden visit to Washington earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran had taken to Twitter to assure Trump that Pakistan "will do everything within its power" to facilitate the process aimed at ending Afghanistan's nearly 18-year war. The world owed it to the people of Afghanistan to bring about peace after four decades of conflict, the premier had added.

The Taliban spokesperson also suggested that the group would meet all Afghan parties, including the Afghan government, if the ongoing talks with foreign powers turn out to be successful.

"We have divided the Afghan issue into two stages, one external and the other internal. The negotiations underway in the first stage have reached the concluding stage.

"If these talks turn out to be successful, then in the second stage we will hold talks with all Afghan parties, in which the Afghan government too can participate as a party," he told the BBC.

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