Efforts to win religious backing for the fledgling Afghan peace process suffered a setback on Wednesday, with the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad confirming that a conference of clerics has officially been postponed.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan were not prepared for the Ulema Conference which was scheduled to be held by the end of January in Kabul, Ambassador Omer Daudzai confirmed to The Express Tribune. He added that the proposed conference will now be held in February. However, no dates have been finalised yet. He said a delegation of the Afghan organising committee will be visiting Pakistan soon to discuss the agenda.
A Pakistani official also confirmed to The Express Tribune that Islamabad has also formed a five-member organising committee that will hold talks with the Afghan delegation.
The idea of holding the conference, aimed at winning religious backing for the peace process in Afghanistan, was first floated when Afghan High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani visited Islamabad in November. Pakistan threw its support behind the proposal and had assured its cooperation.
A few weeks after Rabbani’s visit, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Afghan counterpart, Zalmai Rassoul, agreed during their official talks in Islamabad to hold the conference by the end of January.
The Afghan Taliban had angrily rejected the idea as a part of “American intrigues” and had also asked religious scholars in Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and other countries to reject the conference.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.