KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday.—Reuters
KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday urged Pakistan to help achieve durable peace in Afghanistan.

He said this while talking to Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa, who called on him during his day-long visit to Kabul.

Gen Bajwa visited Afghanistan along with ISI Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hamid after Pakistani officials successfully convinced the Taliban to commit to a three-day ceasefire on the occasion of upcoming Eidul Fitr.

Pakistani officials had last week also visited Doha, where Taliban political office is based, to nudge the insurgent group’s representatives to agree to a temporary ceasefire on Eid. The Taliban, however, remain opposed to a permanent ceasefire.

Bajwa meets President Ghani, Abdullah during his day-long visit to Afghan capital

Gen Bajwa’s visit to Kabul took place amid a sharp escalation in violence across Afghanistan.

President Ghani “called on Pakistan to play an effective role in ensuring a just and lasting peace in Afghanistan”, according to a statement issued by the Afghan presidency.

Pakistan has been in the past accused by Kabul and its western patrons of providing sanctuaries to Taliban who use them for fomenting violence in Afghanistan. However, with the US troops withdrawal having begun earlier this month, the Afghan and western governments have come around to acknowledge Pakistan’s role in helping achieve peace.

Chief of Defence Staff of the UK Army Gen Sir Nicholas Patrick Carter also attended the meeting. Britain has lately been facilitating Pak-Afghan meetings. It had in March facilitated a meeting of Pakistani and Afghan military and intelligence chiefs in Bahrain.

During the meeting in Kabul, discussions, according to the Afghan presidency and ISPR, were held on the peace process, Pak-Afghan bilateral relations, Pakistan’s role in the peace process and ending the violence in Afghanistan, and enhanced bilateral security and defence cooperation and effective border management.

President Ghani emphasised the significance of Pakistan’s role in the peace process, due to what was described as “its influence on the Taliban”.

On bilateral ties, he said the two neighbours had no choice but to respect each other, establish good neighborliness and economic cooperation.

Both President Ghani and Gen Bajwa agreed that peace in the two neighbouring countries was interlinked.

While reiterating Pakistan’s support for peace efforts, the army chief said Islamabad would “always support” an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, which is “based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders”.

Gen Bajwa later met Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah. They discussed the ways of reducing violence leading to a countrywide ceasefire, resumption of peace talks and Pakistan’s role in facilitating the process.

Dr Abdullah said they had during the meeting emphasised the need for resumption of “meaningful talks” between the Afghan government and Taliban, which could lead to an inclusive and comprehensive political settlement. He, much like President Ghani, blamed Taliban for not availing the peace opportunity and warned that “any attempt to use force will worsen the stalemate”.

President Ghani, in his meeting with Gen Bajwa, said Taliban’s insistence on a military solution was unacceptable to the people of Afghanistan, who wanted a just and lasting peace through negotiations.

Dr Abdullah said Gen Bajwa assured him that Pakistan supported “an inclusive power-sharing arrangement and elections”.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

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