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PM assures Afghans of cooperation for peace

November 13, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: Pakistani officials and Afghan peace negotiators tried on Monday to smooth the way out of the deadlock in the reconciliation process in the war-ravaged country.

Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council Salahuddin Rabbani, soon after reaching Islamabad in the afternoon on a three-day visit, met Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf before holding talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at the Foreign Office.

Prime Minister Ashraf “assured” Mr Rabbani that Pakistan would do “all what it takes for a peaceful Afghanistan”. But even before the negotiators settled to discuss the finer details of their collaboration for ending war in Afghanistan, there were some basic issues confronting them — how to resume the stalled process?

One of the proposals on the table is to carry forward the Munich process and another suggestion is to have a broader dialogue.

Pakistan, whose own security depends a lot on the success of reconciliation process, has been supportive of an intra-Afghan dialogue happening inside Afghanistan and without any preconditions from any of the sides.

Islamabad and Kabul may apparently have a consensus on peace in Afghanistan, but a number of issues, including the huge mistrust between the two sides, have traditionally prevented them for jointly working towards it.

Sunday evening’s cross-border shelling by Afghan forces that caused loss of four lives on the Pakistani side was a grim reminder of the challenges the two countries confront.

Afghan Ambassador Umar Daudzai, who was summoned to the Foreign Office to receive a demarche over the shelling incident on Monday, was told by Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani that “such attacks are unhelpful and unproductive and would only vitiate environment that Pakistan is trying to create for promotion of peace and stability in the region”.

Lack of clarity on the part of the US vis-à-vis the peace process, according to a source privy to the talks at the FO, hamstrung the negotiators.

The needed clarity in Washington is unlikely to be achieved till President Obama’s new foreign policy and security teams take charge.

The source said that while moving towards 2014 all likely scenarios for Pakistan were not only chaotic, but also frightful.

“There is no other option for us, but to support reconciliation,” he said.

During the discussions, Pakistani delegation was particularly keen to see what the Afghan High Peace Council, which is charged with leading the process, had to offer to the Taliban as an incentive to return to the negotiating table.

Taliban and other insurgent groups have reservations over the strategic agreement between Kabul and Washington whereas the Afghanistan National Front is opposed to any political accommodation with Taliban.

The challenge, therefore, for both sides is to make all Afghan factions to agree on talking.

The source said that consensus on constitutional amendments in Afghanistan between the Taliban and National Front could prove to be a point of convergence.

The longstanding demand for handover of Taliban leaders incarcerated in Pakistan was reiterated by the delegation.

The two sides discussed the issue of safe passage for reconcilable Taliban with a view to working out modalities to implement the agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US in this regard.

During the later part of his visit he will meet with military leadership and call on President Asif Ali Zardari.