ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday welcomed the renewed United States push for propelling the Afghan peace process forward and called on all parties to contribute to a comprehensive and inclusive settlement of the dispute.
Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, while speaking at the weekly media briefing, said: “We welcome the US efforts to re-energise the peace process and expedite the final political settlement.”
This is the first formal statement from Islamabad on the latest American diplomatic effort for fast-tracking the peace process that at the moment looks to be stalled.
Washington is now pushing for power-sharing between the Afghan government and the Taliban and a permanent and sustainable ceasefire. This proposal has come at a time when the Biden administration is undertaking a review of the agreement signed by the US with Taliban in February last year according to which American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1.
Washington is working for power sharing between Kabul and Taliban
The US proposal has been shared with both Afghan government and Taliban. US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad during his visit to Pakistan this week briefed Pakistani leaders about it as well and stressed the need to accelerate progress towards “a just and durable peace” in Afghanistan.
In this regard Washington is requesting the United Nations to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US for forging a unified approach to support the peace process.
It was apprehended that Pakistan would be having reservations about India being included in the group on Afghanistan. However, the spokesman seemed to suggest otherwise.
“As for India’s inclusion in the Afghan peace process, Pakistan supports regional approaches to solving the conflict in Afghanistan,” Mr Chaudhri said.
However, the spokesman at the same time noted that India had not been a “constructive partner” for peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, it should be recalled, has been taking a softer stance with regard to India since the two arch-rivals last month agreed on reviving their accord on ceasefire at the Line of Control and addressing the ‘core issues’ and ‘concerns’ that could imperil the regional peace.
“It is important for Afghan parties to continue negotiations and pursue an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. All sides must work together for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement,” the spokesman maintained.
In response to a question about Col Habib Zahir, a retired officer of Pakistan Army who was reportedly abducted in 2017 from Lumbini (Nepal), the spokesman said there was strong evidence pointing towards the involvement of Indian hostile agencies in the case.
“Indian media reports and tweets from Indian personnel corroborate the evidence that he is in their custody,” he added and said the abduction of the retired military officer was “a serious transnational crime”.
Pakistan, Mr Chaudhri recalled, had sought Indian cooperation and assistance in locating Col Zahir. “Unfortunately we have not received any positive response as yet,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2021