ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan are due to hold crucial talks next week in Islamabad to revive a stalled process seeking direct negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, a senior foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune on Thursday.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, disclosed that top Afghan negotiator Salahuddin Rabbani is expected to travel to Pakistan soon to resume discussions on the Afghan reconciliation process.
Rabbani, who heads the Afghan High Peace Council, twice put off his scheduled trip to Pakistan in August owing to tensions over cross-border raids and Islamabad’s reluctance to release key Taliban leaders.
However, after months of quiet diplomacy, the two neighbours have agreed to revive discussions, the official added.
When contacted, foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan confirmed to The Express Tribune that Afghan delegation led by Rabbani is expected to visit Pakistan shortly.
This will be the top Afghan interlocutor’s first trip to Pakistan since he was appointed head of the council following the killing of his father and predecessor Burhanuddin Rabbani in September last year.
Burhanuddin’s assassination led to a suspension of talks between the two countries with Kabul publicly pointing fingers at Pakistan’s top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for being behind the murder — a charge it strongly denies.
However, both sides decided to resume discussions when Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf visited Kabul and held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Until now the two countries were struggling to put the process back on track because of tensions on several issuess.
The official revealed that the high-powered Afghan delegation will meet the country’s top civil and military leadership to discuss various options including how the process of Afghan reconciliation can be expedited.
Afghan authorities have publicly held Islamabad responsible for the slow progress towards reconciliation because, according to them, it did little to reach out to Taliban’s senior leaders, who Kabul says are based in Pakistan.
Pakistan maintains that it is doing whatever it can to help the Afghan government in reaching out to insurgents. But officials said Kabul was yet to come up with a clear list of demands.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in his weekly briefing, Foreign Office Spokesman Khan said Pakistan hoped that the Afghan government as well as the US-led Isaf will take action against Mullah Fazllullah, who is currently hiding in Afghanistan.
“We have shared dossiers on Fazlullah both with the Afghan government as well as Isaf. We are intensively engaging both sides to take care of this issue,” he added.
The spokesman said Pakistan will host a regional conference next week to discuss measures aimed at addressing challenges posed by illicit drug production, demand and trafficking.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2012.