Pakistan and Afghanistan have established a joint commission to work out modalities for direct negotiations with the Taliban in a bid to accelerate the Afghan-Taliban reconciliation process.
Headed by the Pakistani and Afghan foreign ministers, the bilateral commission will comprise top military and intelligence officials from both countries. This agreement was signed after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul met in Islamabad on Thursday.
“We have decided to form a two-tiered joint commission. The commission will have the services of military and intelligence officials from both sides,” Qureshi said at a joint press conference with the visiting Afghan Minister.
The formation of a commission, one Pakistani official put it, is the first serious initiative taken by the two nations to find a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. The development also indicates Islamabad’s pivotal role in future political dispensation of Afghanistan.
“We will facilitate and support the Afghan-led reconciliation process…Pakistan can only facilitate if there is a mechanism that brings both of us on board,” Qureshi said when asked to explain the purpose of the commission.
The Afghan foreign minister said his government had “established contacts with top Taliban leaders” to seek an end to the decade-old war.
“You can’t make peace without contacts, but obviously I can’t share the details,” Zalmay replied to a question about contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
He said people of Afghanistan are in favor of peace. “We have been suffering (infighting) for the past 35 years…the people of Afghanistan want peace,” he emphasised.
Zalmay said the Afghan government is willing to hold dialogue with anyone including the Taliban. “But there are redlines too…whoever wants to talk to us will have to accept the democratic process…(and) the Afghan Constitution.”
Both foreign ministers underlined the importance of friendly relations between the two countries to bring sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
Qureshi said Islamabad and Kabul were the best judge to analyse the situation in Afghanistan. “We know our culture, we know our traditions and now there is a growing realization that we must work together.”
“We need each other…we’ve got to be strategically aligned,” said Qureshi, adding his talks with Zalmay was part of the preparation by the two neighbours to put up a joint stance at the next month’s trilateral meeting with the US.
The Afghan foreign minister complimented Qureshi’s views. “Without Pakistan there can’t be long lasting peace in Afghanistan and vice-versa,” he remarked.
He also met President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, said a joint statement issued by the Foreign Office.
“Both sides agreed that it was of utmost importance that the international community as a whole, immediate neighbours and regional states in particular, respect the principles of sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and the principle of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan,” the statement added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2011.