Pakistan backs Afghan talks, Bajwa tells US special envoy

Updated May 09, 2020

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Khalilzad scheduled to return to Doha for resumption of negotiations with Taliban. — ISPR/File
Khalilzad scheduled to return to Doha for resumption of negotiations with Taliban. — ISPR/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said Pakistan’s support for the Afghan reconciliation process is a proof of its sincerity for peace in Afghanistan.

Talking to US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Dr Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday, the army chief said: “Our support towards peace process is a manifestation of our goodwill towards the cause.”

Dr Khalilzad was visiting Pakis­tan after a meeting with Taliban leaders in Doha and a stopover in Delhi, where he met Indian Exter­nal Affairs Minister Subrahman­yam Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

The Indian leaders, according to reports in Indian media, blamed a recent spike in violence in Afghanistan to alleged “sanctuaries” on Pakistani soil and emphasised their elimination. The Indian allegations have come in the backdrop of renewed terror accusations against Pakistan in India-held Kashmir.

Pakistan has strongly rejected all Indian allegations and has asked the United Nations to seek proofs from India about the alleged “launch pads” and “infiltration bids” at the Line of Control.

Khalilzad scheduled to return to Doha for resumption of negotiations with Taliban

Dr Khalilzad, according to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), praised continuing Pakistani efforts for peace and stability in the region.

India, despite the special envoy’s recent visits to Delhi, is uneasy because its viewpoint on Afghanistan is getting little weightage in Washington.

Pakistan had facilitated long-drawn US-Taliban talks, which culminated with the signing of a landmark peace deal in Doha in February between the two adversaries that have been at war for 19 years. Under the deal, the Afghan Taliban gave counterterrorism assurances and agreed to engage in dialogue with the Afghan government for ending war. The peace agreement was expected to pave the way for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

However, the progress towards start of intra-Afghan peace talks have been sluggish because of trust deficit between the Afghan factions and slow release of prisoners by both sides. Intra-Afghan talks were, according to the original plan, to commence on March 10 after release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners by Kabul, while the militant group was to set free 1,000 government personnel. So far the Afghan government has released 933 of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 155 captives.

In recent weeks, the Taliban finally intensified attacks against government forces. On Thursday, Khost police chief Ahmad Babazai was killed in a landmine attack.

Dr Khalilzad said he had in his “lengthy” overnight meeting with the head of Taliban political office in Doha emphasised “reduction in violence, humanitarian ceasefire as demanded by the international community to allow for better cooperation on managing Covid-19 pandemic in Afghanistan, acceleration of prisoner releases by both sides, actions necessary to secure the freedom of US citizen Mark Frerichs, regional and international support for the peace process, and movement to intra-Afghan negotiations ASAP”.

The special envoy will travel back to Doha from Islamabad for continuing his discussions with Taliban leaders.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020