Reconciliation: Afghan peace delegates kicks off key talks

Published: November 13, 2012

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and chair of the Afghan High Peace Council, Salahuddin Rabbani prior to their talks in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

A high-level Afghan delegation exchanged “key proposals” with Pakistan on Monday in the latest push by the two neighbours to seek a peaceful end to the decade-long conflict and advance the process of reconciliation with the Taliban.

Members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, led by chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, arrived on a three-day visit to Pakistan, and held crucial talks with political leaders, including Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar amidst fresh tensions over a cross-border shelling incident.

The premier expressed hope that the visit by the delegation “will pave the way for closer relations between the two countries,” a statement said after he met Rabbani and accompanying members.

“There is consensus in Pakistan that both Afghanistan and Pakistan should work together for peace in the region,” the statement issued by the PM’s house said.

A participant of the meeting described talks as “positive and substantive”, adding that the two countries shared “concrete proposals” on the Afghan reconciliation process.

The official, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that unlike previous talks, the latest one indicated that “things are heading in the right direction.”

According to sources, the release of certain Afghan Taliban commanders currently in Pakistani custody and establishing a comprehensive framework to provide safe passage to certain Taliban was discussed. The Afghan side is believed to have shared its ‘roadmap’ envisaging steps it intends to take and a list of demands for Pakistan to help broker a peace deal.

The demands include the release of key Afghan commanders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who, according to the Karzai administration, can play a crucial role in bringing insurgents to the negotiating table.

Baradar, who was captured from Karachi by security agencies in February 2010, is ranked second in influence only to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. American officials believe that besides running the Taliban’s military operations, Mullah Baradar was head of the so-called Quetta Shura.

Afghan-Pakistani talks were derailed more than a year ago amid a welter of accusations when Rabbani’s father Burhanuddin, then head of the peace council, was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2012.

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