Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pictured during their meeting.—Online
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pictured during their meeting.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday assured Kabul of its support for peace in Afghanistan as it renewed its efforts for facilitating the long elusive intra-Afghan dialogue.

Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa paid a previously unannounced trip to Kabul along with newly appointed special envoy for Afghanistan Muham­mad Sadiq and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. It was Gen Bajwa’s first foreign trip since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which itself underscored the importance of the trip.

The visit took place ahead of the expected commencement of a dialogue between Taliban and other Afghan factions, including the Ashraf Ghani-led government over a political settlement of the long-running conflict. Moreover, it came close on the heels of US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad and Kabul and meeting with Taliban leaders in Doha.

Gen Bajwa meets President Ghani, Abdullah in Kabul

Gen Bajwa met President Ashraf Ghani and chief of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul.

Mr Abdullah, according to Afghan media, later said: “Gen Bajwa expressed Pakistan’s support for our efforts and for the earliest possible start of intra-Afghan talks.”

While conveying Afghanistan’s readiness for the dialogue, Mr Abdullah said: “I told him that we are ready to engage with the Taliban on our common issues and to end the conflict and live together in peace. I reiterated Pakistan’s constructive role in this regard.”

Mr Abdullah had at a public event in Kabul on Monday hinted at the possibility of ‘intra-Afghan’ talks beginning soon. He had then cited Eid ceasefire, subsequent lower level of violence, and progress in exchange of prisoners as having made the environment conducive for talks.

Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace, meanwhile, said the two sides discussed the efforts for peace.

Ambassador Sadiq, while tal­king to Dawn, said the meetings in Kabul were “substantive”.

A source said that the agenda of the Kabul visit was to discuss the steps required to accelerate the progress towards the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue, including the release of prisoners and other needed confidence-building measures. The two sides also talked about issues related to security along the border.

The release of prisoners has been a major issue delaying the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, which were originally scheduled for March 10, according the Doha agreement signed by the United States and Taliban in February. Pakistan facilitated the agreement that paved the way for intra-Afghan talks.

Kabul was to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan personnel held captive by the insurgents. Taliban have released about 473 detainees, while the Afghan government has freed about 3000 insurgents.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2020

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