ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani discussed on Wednesday the progress in the ongoing Afghan peace process and strengthening of relations between the two countries as a delegation from Doha-based Taliban’s Political Commission (TPC) met Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The Taliban delegation is scheduled to meet the prime minister during their three-day trip. The visit is taking place on Pakistan’s invitation as part of Islamabad’s efforts for outreach to all Afghan stakeholders for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the Foreign Office said.
In a phone contact with President Ghani, the prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s steadfast support for the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process for a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
While welcoming the recent progress in the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, PM Khan underlined that Islamabad’s outreach to all Afghan stakeholders was part of its facilitative efforts to ensure progress towards an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.
FM Qureshi says Taliban keen to make peace talks fruitful
The latest visit of the TPC delegation to Pakistan is also in this context.
The PM reiterated Pakistan’s call on all the Afghan sides for taking measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire.
The two leaders agreed to continue their engagement for supporting the peace process and enhancing bilateral cooperation.
Intra-Afghan talks from Jan 5
Earlier, Foreign Minister Qureshi held a meeting with the TPC delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, among others, included Sheikh Abdul Hakeem, the group’s top negotiators for peace talks with the Afghan government.
Mr Qureshi hoped that intra-Afghan talks would resume from Jan 5, but said the venue for the next round of dialogue was yet to be decided.
In a televised statement after the meeting, the foreign minister while emphasising the “seriousness of Taliban” about the process going forward said: “This process would Insha Allah go ahead from Jan 5. Talks will start from where they broke off.”
The two sides in the intra-Afghan talks took a 20-day break after negotiating for nearly three months, which produced an agreement on rules and procedures for the dialogue. They were negotiating the agenda of the talks, when they decided to take the break for updating the principals about the parleys.
However, there has been an air of uncertainty about the resumption of the process due to undecided venue for the next round, upcoming transition in the United States and intensified fighting in Afghanistan.
“Taliban are convinced that continued conflict is not in their interest. I could clearly see from the conversation their inclination towards peace and seriousness. It was very encouraging to see that,” Mr Qureshi said.
Taliban have often been blamed for not agreeing to reduction in violence, which is believed to be the biggest impediment to a political settlement of the conflict.
However, the foreign minister said Taliban were not alone to blame for the ongoing violence.
“Reduction in violence is not visible. We desire reduction in violence leading to ceasefire, but responsibility for not doing so is not alone on the Taliban. All sides have to play their role,” he maintained, adding that the dialogue offered the Afghans a historic opportunity to redress mistakes of the past.
About the next venue for the Afghan talks, Mr Qureshi said both sides had shared their points of view and preferences, but no final decision had been taken so far. He stressed the importance of the international community playing its role in reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan.
Kabul welcomes Taliban’s visit
Kabul welcomed Taliban’s visit and expressed the hope that it would help in achieving peace.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is aware of the visit of a delegation of the Taliban’s Political Commission to Islamabad at the invitation of Pakistani officials. The Taliban delegation’s visit to Islamabad has taken place after consultation with the government of IRoA and as a result of a state visit to Afghanistan by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, H.E. Imran Khan,” the Afghan foreign ministry said.
It is part of the ongoing endeavours to strengthen the peace and national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and, therefore, the government of Afghanistan appreciates these efforts, it added.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2020