It seems Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s persistence has finally paid off.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday publicly urged Taliban leaders and other Afghan insurgent groups to take part in a peace process to end a decade of war in neighbouring Afghanistan – a request Karzai has frequently put forth to the leadership in Pakistan.
“I would like to appeal to the Taliban leadership as well as to all other Afghan groups, including Hizb-e-Islami, to participate in an intra-Afghan process for national reconciliation and peace,” Gilani said in a statement.
Commenting on a recent statement by the Afghan president calling Pakistan’s support in peace talks “vital”, Gilani said Pakistan was duty bound to respond positively to the Afghan president’s request, adding that Pakistan, on its part, was prepared to do whatever it can for Afghan reconciliation.
The text of the premier’s statement emphasised that stability, peace and national reconciliation in Afghanistan was critical for regional peace and stability.
The premier seemed to be in high spirits when it came to relations between the two countries, saying the neighbours had witnessed important developments during recent years.
The premier said Pakistan had immense respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and adhered to the principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of the country.
“We strongly believe that the process of national reconciliation must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned as it is imperative to promote an intra-Afghan consensus for a durable political settlement that accords with the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan, as a whole,” Gilani said.
The premier also appealed to the international community to fully support national reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan appreciated the initiative taken by Karzai.
Consultations with the military
Prior to making the appeal, Prime Minister Gilani consulted with the military on three different occasions during the day.
Director General of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Ahmed Shuja Pasha called on the premier to discuss issues pertaining to national security, and, according to sources, the Afghanistan situation remained an important point of discussion.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who was also present during the meeting, briefed the prime minister on Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s trip to London, as well as on developments that have taken place in the last couple of weeks, particularly regarding Pakistan and US ties.
According to reports, the prime minister had a conversation with Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on the phone and met with the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shammim Wyne as well.
According to former foreign secretary and analyst Tanvir A Khan, the prime minister’s appeal is expected to be welcomed by Afghanistan and the US, as both have been, for ages, pressurising Islamabad to bring Taliban leaders to the negotiating table.
He added that it is believed that Pakistan is a base for Taliban leadership, including Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmat iyar.
“Quite clearly, it is not within Pakistan’s power to [bring Taliban to the negotiating table] particularly since it also insists that the top leadership of Taliban is not located anywhere in its territory; so the next best thing is to deploy whatever moral influence Islamabad may have,” Tanvir said.
He added that, in reality, the prime minister’s appeal is determined to strengthen President Karzai’s diplomatic campaign to play a bigger role in the peace process as he is apprehensive that Kabul and Islamabad are both being locked out of the US-Taliban talks in Qatar.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.