ISLAMABAD: United States Special Representa­tive for Afghan Reconcilia­tion Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday met Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa to discuss ways for pushing the Taliban and the Afghan government to reduce violence and expedite their snail-paced talks in Doha.

“Regional security situation, Afghan peace process with particular reference to border management and way forward for lasting peace in Afghanistan were discussed during the meeting,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement on Mr Khalilzad’s meeting with Gen Bajwa.

Vice Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed also attended the meeting.

Mr Khalilzad had embarked on the latest trip to the region expressing his disappointment over continuing violence. He had warned the Afghan sides that “the window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever”.

The ISPR said: “Visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s untiring efforts for facilitating the process towards the mutual objective of peace in the region.”

The Intra-Afghan talks have been continuing in Doha for nearly six weeks, but without any progress. The two sides haven’t so far been able to agree on the framework of dialogue and their agenda. They are instead bogged down in symbolic references in the framework.

Meanwhile, the two sides have ramped up violence against each other in a bid to pressure the other side into making concessions on the table.

The Taliban have launched large-scale attacks in Lashkargah in Helmand, Faizabad in Badakhshan and the city of Kunduz in Kunduz province.

Increased violence has been accompanied by exchange of acrimonious public statements between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Also on Monday, 19 people were killed and another 22 were injured when militants attacked Kabul University. The Taliban have denied their involvement in the attack.

The Foreign Office denounced the attack as a “mindless” action. It noted that this act of terrorism was particularly despicable, because it targeted an institution of learning.

“Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and will continue to support a peaceful and stable Afghanistan,” the FO said.

“We extend our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wish speedy recovery to the wounded. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Afghan people in this hour of grief and sorrow,” it added.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2020

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