Pakistan warns about ‘spoilers’ of Afghan peace process

Updated 02 Jul 2020

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in meeting with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad urges ‘all sides’ to reduce violence. — Provided by Naveed Siddiqui/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in meeting with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad urges ‘all sides’ to reduce violence. — Provided by Naveed Siddiqui/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday warned about ‘spoilers’ trying to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan as efforts for kick-starting the long-elusive intra-Afghan dialogue continue.

“Afghan peace process has entered a critical phase. We, therefore, need to remain alert to the elements, who are attempting to sabotage the progress,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mr Khalilzad, accompanied by his delegation, reached here from Tashkent (Uzbekistan), as part of his three-nation trip that will also include Doha (Qatar). In Tashkent, the special envoy met foreign ministers from five Central Asian States — Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic — under the C5+1 dialogue format to urge them support the Afghan peace efforts.

Mr Qureshi, while reaffirming Pakistan’s continued support for peace efforts, said: “Pakistan remains committed to working with international and regional stakeholders for sustainable, peaceful, and political resolution of the Afghan dispute.”

The foreign minister welcomed the readiness of both Afghan government and the Taliban for participation in the intra-Afghan dialogue and announcement of their negotiation teams. He said the dialogue would pave the way for lasting peace in the war-ravaged country that has been in conflict for decades.

Qureshi in meeting with Khalilzad urges ‘all sides’ to reduce violence

The Afghan government and the Taliban have also agreed on Doha as the venue for their talks. However, the delay in the release of prisoners has been holding up the start of the negotiations, which were originally scheduled to commence on March 10 following the signing of Doha Accord between the US and the insurgent group.

Afghan authorities, as per the agreement, were to release 5,000 insurgency fighters, while the Taliban were to set free 1,000 Afghan forces men in their custody. Kabul claims to have released 4,000 Taliban and the Taliban say they have freed about 700 government soldiers. There are, however, differences between the two sides over the numbers.

Head of Taliban Political Office Mullah Baradar, in a video conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday night, said the delay in the start of negotiations was because of slow process of releasing the detainees, and the establishment of security points by government security forces.

Another sticking point is the heightened violence. The Taliban say their fighters conducted ‘operations’ against Afghan forces trespassing the areas held by them, otherwise they have abided by the understating on lowering violence by not attacking major cities and military installations.

Mr Qureshi expressed the hope that release of prisoners would be completed soon. He further urged “all sides” to reduce violence.

There have been questions about high-profile assassinations and attacks in and around Kabul, including the June 23 killing of Afghan prosecutors and government employees, and the bombing of a vehicle carrying human rights activist Fatima Khalil on June 27.

These attacks have not been claimed by any group. Amb Khalilzad had after the killing of the prosecutors tweeted: “This attack underscores what we all know: Spoilers (both domestic and foreign) are trying to disrupt and delay.”

Mr Qureshi, in his meeting, re-emphasised the need for being alert to the sinister designs of the ‘spoilers’.

Mr Khalilzad is being accompanied on this trip by Chief Executive Office of US International Development Finance Corporation (USDFC) Adam Boehler. He is pushing Trump administration’s plans for increased regional connectivity, trade and development.

The USDFC was set up in 2018 for American investments in development projects in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Many suspect it to have been set up for countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its flagship project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Nothing was said in the Foreign Office’s media statement about what is being offered by the USDFC.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2020