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Prisoners of peace

November 16, 2012

Since the arrival of Salahuddin Rabbani, chairman of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, to Pakistan, there has been significant progress in talks between Kabul and Islamabad, especially since Pakistan freed a number of Taliban prisoners for handover – something that ‘has been a longstanding Afghan demand for catalysing the slow moving process’ of bringing the militants to the negotiating table.

According to the same report, “The two sides urged the Taliban and other insurgent groups to join the process of reconciliation and asked them to disassociate themselves from Al Qaeda and other trans-national terror groups, but stayed short of setting it as a precondition for becoming part of the peace process.” Do you think bringing the militants to the negotiating table is a positive step towards achieving peace throughout the region? Will the process of negotiation be as simple as asking them to disassociate themselves from Al Qaeda and other trans-national terror groups?

As of November 15, 2012, Pakistan will consider freeing former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. A report says that, “After releasing 13 Taliban, Pakistan promised to free Mullah Baradar if these releases prove effective in peace negotiations. Afghan officials believe he may command enough respect to persuade the Taliban to engage in talks with the Kabul government.” Will Pakistan’s move be considered wise amongst its own military circles since his capture was hailed as a “big success” back in 2010? If Mullah Baradar is as important as Afghan officials claim to be he his then how come Pakistan has not yet interrogated him since the last two years for useful information or made use of his capture in any positive light post arrest?

While all efforts are being made to speed up the progress in reconciliation efforts with the Taliban before presidential elections in April 2014 and before most Nato combat troops pull out at the end of 2014, Kabul and Islamabad are still reeling from the effects of their past love-hate relationship. According to a report, “Rabbani was named the council chief after his predecessor, his father Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in Sept 2011 by a suicide bomber who purported to be a Taliban peace envoy. Peace talks were derailed then as Afghan officials lashed out at Islamabad over the killing, saying it was planned in Pakistan and carried out by a Pakistani with a bomb in his turban. Pakistan denied the charges and blamed Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for the murder. Earlier this year in August, a similar visit by the peace council chief was put off following tensions between the two countries over cross-border shelling.” Isn’t it about time that both Pakistan and Afghanistan stop pointing fingers and quarrelling like children in such times of tension? Is it not time to put all their differences aside and listen to each other’s qualms with open ears, hearts and minds to conjure up joint solutions for stability in the Af-Pak region?