Afghan President Hamid Karzai is said to have told a top cleric on Saturday that key Taliban leaders are either killed or arrested whenever they show willingness to negotiate with his government.
Karzai met senior religious and political leaders during his official visit to Pakistan and sought their help in peace and reconciliation in war-ravaged Afghanistan. An Afghan diplomat said Karzai extended his visit by a day and wrapped up his three-day trip on Saturday. He had earlier scheduled a two-day trip, but extended it to complete the series of talks with Pakistani politicians.
“President Hamid Karzai told me that certain powers kill and arrest important Afghan (Taliban) personalities whenever they find an opportunity to talk to us,” Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) told The Express Tribune in an interview after a one-on-one meeting with Karzai.
“The Afghan president also mentioned the arrest and killing of key Taliban leaders in Pakistan,” Sami-ul-Haq said, adding that Karzai said he loses the opportunity of dialogue when these personalities are removed.
When Mullah Baradar, next in the Taliban hierarchy after Mullah Omar, was arrested near Karachi in February 2010, a section of the media claimed that he had been involved in talks with the Afghan government. The Taliban denied the report. The Afghan government and President Karzai had in the past sought access and repatriation of Mullah Baradar, but the demand is believed to have not been accepted.
The Taliban last week confirmed for the first time the death of their top leader and former Defence Minister Mulla Obaidullah in a Pakistani prison, asking Pakistan to provide information about his arrest, imprisonment and death. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated that Mullah Obaidullah was arrested in Balochistan in 2009 and died in a Karachi jail in 2010. But his death was announced after an Afghan media website quoted Obaidullah’s family as saying he was dead.
“President Karzai told me that he has sensed a positive change in the approach of Pakistani leaders during his official talks,” Maulana Samiul Haq said. “However, I told him Pakistani leaders cannot play any role in Afghan peace and reconciliation, unless they change their pro-US policy.”
“President Karzai told me that he is in contact with the Taliban and also holds talks with them from time to time,” Haq said. Karzai did not elaborate on the extent of his contact with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, holding separate meetings with other Pakistani political parties on Saturday, Karzai stressed upon the exchange of parliamentary and political delegations. He also stressed on the need to setup an independent Pak-Afghan Jirga as a grand platform to resolve outstanding issues of the two countries.
Leaders who called on Karzai included Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed from Pakistan Muslim League Q (PML-Q), Aftab Sherpao representing PPP-S, Haji Adeel, Afrasiyab Khattak and Zahid Khan from Awami National Party (ANP), Maulana Samiul Haq and Mahmud Khan Achakzai.
After the meetings, many of the political leaders shared details with the media. Mushahid Hussain Syed said that a delegation of PML-Q lawmakers would visit Afghanistan in May to discuss key issues with afghan leaders.
“The successful outcome of the trilateral summit in Pakistan proves that, from now on, decisions will not be made in Washington or Berlin,” Mushahid Husain said.
Chaudhry Shujat Hussain said Pakistan and Afghanistan have to resolve issues through purposeful dialogue and without interference from others.
Karzai, putting the leaders at ease while reiterating his stance, said, “Afghanistan is a sovereign country and I assure you that it will never accept any dictation and direction aimed at controlling our Afghan peace process.”
(With additional reporting from Sumera Khan in Islamabad)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.