Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States have identified nearly two dozen potential Taliban negotiators who are expected to be taken off the United Nations terror-list in a move that seeks to encourage insurgents to join the peace process.
This will be the second major step towards a political settlement of over a decade-long conflict in Afghanistan after Pakistan last week released at least 13 Taliban cadres from its jails.
According to official sources, the three countries have finalised the list of Taliban members for delisting from the UN sanctions list.
In the first phase, they will propose to the UN names of nearly two dozen Taliban members, who may play a crucial role in the Afghan endgame, sources added.
Names of these Taliban leaders have not been made public with one Pakistani official citing security reasons behind maintaining secrecy.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said removal of certain insurgents from the UN terror list would help restart the reconciliation process. “That is why we have supported this initiative,” he added.
More than 100 Taliban members were blacklisted for having ties with al Qaeda, which had been accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
In early 2010, at least 15 of those Taliban cadres were removed from the list at the request of the Afghan government because they had either severed their links with the Taliban or had joined the Karzai administration.
But the latest efforts to remove more names are aimed at sending a message to the Taliban that all stakeholders are serious for peace negotiations.
In a jointed statement issued after the recent visit of a high-powered Afghan delegation led by Afghan High Peace Council Salauddin Rabbani to Pakistan, it listed a series of steps to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
One of them includes that all stakeholders — Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US — work together to remove certain Taliban members from the UN terror list.
A trilateral meeting of what is known as core group will take place early next month to discuss the issue.
In addition to this, Pakistan also expects the US to free certain Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in a bid to help revive the process.
“The ball is now in their court (Afghanistan and United States),” said a Pakistani official adding that Islamabad had played its part and now it was up to Kabul and Washington to take this initiative forward.
“Our understanding is that some positive movement is expected between the Taliban and the Americans on the issue of prisoners,” revealed the official.
Talks between the US and the Taliban collapsed in March apparently on the release of five insurgents, including three Taliban commanders, held in Guantanamo Bay in return for an American soldier, who is in the custody of the Haqqani Network.
But the official said the stalled process under the ‘Qatar initiative’ might also be revived with indications from Washington to free certain Taliban leaders.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2012.