Kabul urged to seize opportunity for peace

Updated 13 Aug 2020

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Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meets outgoing Afghan envoy Shukrullah Atif Mashal, who paid a farewell call on him. — Photo courtesy Shukrullah Atif Mashal Twitter
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meets outgoing Afghan envoy Shukrullah Atif Mashal, who paid a farewell call on him. — Photo courtesy Shukrullah Atif Mashal Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday urged Afghan leaders to seize the opportunity for peace.

Talking to the outgoing Afghan envoy Shukrullah Atif Mashal, who paid a farewell call on him, Mr Qureshi said: “Afghan leadership should seize this historic opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, broad-based and inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan”.

Intra-Afghan talks are expected to begin in next few days in Doha, Qatar, though no date has been officially announced as yet.

The presidential decree to set free the remaining 400 of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, whose release was agreed under the US-Taliban agreement signed in February, paved the way for the start of the talks.

The release of the 400 prisoners, described as dangerous by Kabul, is yet to take place.

“The foreign minister welcomed the Loya Jirga’s recommendation on release of prisoners and expressed the hope that the Intra-Afghan negotiations will commence at the earliest,” the FO said in a statement echoing the army’s corps commanders, who too had a day earlier called for an early start of the dialogue by capitalising on the progress made in the peace process.

Mr Qureshi said the success of the peace process would not only bring peace to Afghanistan, but would also ensure stability in the region.

Spokesman for the Taliban Political Office Suhail Shaheen, in an interview with VoA, meanwhile, said that Taliban would enter the negotiations with the intention of finding a solution to the conflict but the other side must also demonstrate “flexibility” for the talks’ eventual success.

Taliban have voiced concern about the safety of the prisoners that are to be released.

“ISIS (Daesh), with the cooperation of the Kabul administration’s intelligence, some soldiers and the commanders of the prison security checkpoints, intends to attack the vehicles that would be transporting the remaining prisoners from Pul-e-Charkhi prison. With this crime, they want to disrupt the negotiation process and take revenge,” another Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement published on the insurgent’s official website, Al Emarah.

Amb Mashal, who had last month announced his resignation, also met President Arif Alvi and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa. The ambassador thanked the COAS for support to Afghanistan and Afghan peace process during his tenure.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2020