PESHAWAR: The ruling Afghan Taliban have confirmed inviting Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to play a mediator’s role between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a brief Pashto audio message shared with Pakistani journalists by the media department of the Afghan government, chief spokesman for the regime Zabihullah Mujahid said the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ had officially invited the JUI-F leader to keep abreast of aspirations of the Afghan people and government towards Pakistan and its people.

“And let the people of Pakistan know that we never want unrest in Pakistan, our relations soured or any step taken against Pakistan. We certainly don’t want this, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman sahib can play this role very well,” Mr Mujahid said in the brief audio message.

The Afghan Taliban’s statement comes two days after their envoy to Pakistan, Sardar Ahmad Jan Shakib, met the JUI-F chief in Islamabad to formally extend the invitation for mediation.

JUI-F says its chief will visit Afghanistan in 10 days

Relations between the Taliban government and Pakistan have seen a rapid deterioration after an increase in terrorist attacks in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan blames the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan for them insisting that the outlawed terror group is operating from its bases in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban, which initially hosted the failed peace talks between Pakistan and the TTP, now say the militant groups are no longer based in Afghanistan. They have asked Islamabad to address its internal security challenges instead of blaming Kabul for them.

Mr Mujahid’s statement came immediately after reports suggested that the Afghan Taliban had rounded up a few dozen TTP fighters.

Though details of the arrests weren’t disclosed, Kabul’s move suggests that the Afghan Taliban that were long considered to be close to Pakistan were finally ready to contemplate action against Pakistani militants on their soil.

Some unconfirmed reports, mostly circulating on social media, indicate that the Afghan Taliban arrested 30-40 TTP men immediately after Pakistan lodged a strong protest with Afghanistan over an attack on its northern border in Chitral region in Sept this year.

The attack was repulsed.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the JUI-F Mohammad Aslam Ghauri told Dawn that his party’s chief would visit Kabul soon after the nomination and scrutiny of candidates for the Feb 8 general elections in the country.

“[The visit will come] next week or in 10 days, Inshallah [God willing],” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2023

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