• Imran welcomes start of intra-Afghan talks
• Afghan govt negotiators led by Masoom Stanekzai and Taliban team by Abdul Hakim Haqqani
• Mike Pompeo, Zalmay Khalilzad, Abdullah Abdullah and Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar to witness start of dialogue in Doha
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday welcomed the launch of intra-Afghan dialogue, saying Pakistan has fulfilled its commitment and it is now for the Afghans to work towards durable peace through a negotiated settlement of the dispute.
He, however, reassured the Afghans that Pakistan would continue supporting their peace efforts.
The long-awaited dialogue between the warring Afghan factions is set to begin on Saturday (today) in Doha, Qatar, after repeated delays over prisoners’ release.
The 21-member Afghan government team led by Masoom Stanekzai reached Doha on Friday evening.
The Taliban side is, meanwhile, being led by Sheikh Abdul Hakim Haqqani, a hardline cleric and close confidant of the insurgent group’s chief Maulvi Hibatullah Akhunzada.
Haqqani recently replaced Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had signed an agreement with the US in February. The Taliban delegation for the talks also has 21 members.
The release of the last group of six “dangerous” Taliban prisoners by Afghan government paved the way for the start of the talks, which were to begin originally on March 10 under the US-Taliban agreement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, Chief of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar and ambassadors would witness the start of the dialogue between the Afghan government’s team and Taliban negotiators.
The event, being described by many as ‘historic’ has been welcomed by a number of world leaders, including US President Donald Trump.
Islamabad says it facilitated the US-Taliban agreement and contributed to breaking the stalemate on the prisoners’ release.
“I warmly welcome the announcement regarding commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on 12 September 2020. Finally, our combined efforts have brought forth the day that the Afghan people have been yearning for,” Prime Minister Khan said.
He recalled that Pakistan too had suffered from the fallout of the Afghan conflict in the shape of terrorism, which caused both human and economic losses.
Speaking about Pakistan’s contribution to efforts for Afghan reconciliation, Mr Khan said: “Pakistan has played a pivotal role in facilitating the Afghan peace process to this juncture. We feel deeply gratified today as we have fulfilled our part of the responsibility.”
“It is now for the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement,” he added.
The prime minister urged all sides to honour their commitments, persevere, and staunchly pursue the goal of peaceful settlement of the dispute, which is now in its 19th year.
“For its part, Pakistan will continue to remain in full support and solidarity with the Afghan people as they march forward in this consequential journey for peace and development,” he said.
In a related development, the commander of US CENTCOM, Gen Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., met Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters.
“Geostrategic environment, regional security, Pak-US military cooperation, including Afghanistan peace process and Kashmir situation, (were) discussed,” said the Inter-Services Public Relations.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2020