Pakistan and Afghanistan are working on a reconciliation “package deal” to be offered to the Afghan Taliban in a bid to bring a peaceful end to the decade-long conflict in the war-ravaged country.
Talks between members of the Afghan High Peace Council, led by Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, and Pakistan’s top political and military leadership focused on how to persuade insurgents to enter peace talks, said officials familiar with the development.
On the second day of his maiden trip, Rabbani held separate meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. And even though officials were tightlipped about the extensive talks, sources claimed that the two sides were working towards a joint strategy for the Afghan endgame.
A senior foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune that the Afghan side acknowledged that the apparent deadlock in the reconciliation process was linked to the “lack of an incentive package” for the Taliban, who are willing to enter into the negotiations.
The official went on to add that Pakistan conveyed to the Afghan delegation that unless the Taliban were offered incentives, the peace process won’t achieve the desired results.
“We can use our influence but the question is: do we have anything concrete to be offered to the Taliban,” the official asked. He also attributed the apparent impasse in peace talks to the lack of clarity on the part of Afghanistan and the US.
However, the official said Pakistan and Afghanistan were now exploring several options which would hopefully pave the way for a “clear roadmap” to end the impasse.
Despite repeated attempts, the Foreign Office was not willing to share details of the talks. It said a statement is likely to be issued on Wednesday at the conclusion of Rabbani’s visit.
The military also attempted to downplay the meeting between the army chief and Rabbani, saying it was a “courtesy call,” where regional situation was discussed.
In a separate statement issued by the Presidency, Zardari assured the delegation that Pakistan would continue to extend every possible support to bring peace in Afghanistan.
Seeking ‘religious’ intervention
The Afghan peace envoy, meanwhile, sought help from Pakistan’s religious leaders in encouraging the Afghan Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and other resistance groups to join the reconciliation process, former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed said on Tuesday.
Rabbani also met with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is believed to have influence on the Afghan Taliban.
Chief of his eponymous faction of JUI Maulana Samiul Haq was also invited but his spokesman told The Express Tribune that he could not meet Rabbani because of his “busy schedule”. Qazi met Rabbani at a hotel in Islamabad where they discussed the possible role of Pakistani religious and political leaders in the Afghan reconciliation process.
“Rabbani wants Pakistani leaders to use their influence to push forward the peace process and intra-Afghan dialogue,” Qazi told The Express Tribune following the meeting.
“I told them that we will discuss his (Rabbani’s) proposals with other Pakistani religious and political leaders before reaching a consensus on any role,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Tahir Khan in ISLAMABAD)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2012.