Pakistan will persuade the Afghan Taliban to relocate their political office from Qatar and enter into direct talks with Kabul, sources privy to the talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday.
Karzai, who extended his stay in Pakistan for a day at the request of the prime minister, had another round of talks with him in Murree.
A senior official familiar with closed-door talks told The Express Tribune that discussions between the two sides were ‘open and candid’ where all issues of mutual interests were discussed.
The official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, disclosed that much of the discussions were concentrated on how to break the deadlock in efforts to strike a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban.
President Karzai, who was also accompanied by senior officials including head of the Afghan High Peace Council, sought Pakistan’s help to convince the Taliban to shift their office from the Qatari capital, Doha to either Saudi Arabia or Turkey and start negotiations with Karzai administration.
The Doha office, which started with much fanfare, could not take off due to strong objections of the Karzai administration.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured President Karzai that Pakistan would do whatever lies in its powers to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” another official was quoted Nawaz Sharif as saying.
Pakistan’s role is seen as critical to any future political dispensation in Afghanistan in post-2014 because of its historical ties with the Taliban.
Islamabad was believed to have played a key role in the establishment of Taliban political office in Doha, as several insurgents were said to be traveled on the Pakistani documents.
Some of the freed Taliban detainees held by Pakistan were also instrumental in bringing their top leadership to the negotiating table.
The issue of release of more Taliban prisoners also came under discussions during Karzai’s visit, said the official.
Although, Pakistan principally agreed to free more detainees, the timing of such releases has yet to be decided.
“We will certainly release more Taliban prisoners but at an appropriate time,” added the official.
When contacted, Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs said President Karzai’s visit was a ‘step forward in reducing the trust deficit’ that marred relationship between the two countries over the past few months.
Karzai is anxious to contact Taliban: Afghan officials
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was ‘terribly anxious’ for getting in contact with the Taliban leaders, particularly with those in Pakistan’s custody, Afghan sources told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
The sources said the High Peace Council Karzai has formed for talks with the armed opponents had requested for contacts with the Taliban figures during his extended visit to Pakistan.
A Taliban official also said the leadership had been aware of such move but had ruled out any meeting with what they described as the puppet government.
“We even did not meet the Karzai people in Qatar and any such contact is impossible anywhere,” the Taliban official told The Express Tribune via phone from an undisclosed location.
He, however, said that the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” would not own any such contact the Karzai-backed council establishes with the Taliban prisoners.
Commenting on Karzai’s quest for interaction with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar the official said the Taliban leadership had appointed another senior leader shortly after his arrest. “So all efforts to opt for talks with a prisoner will be a useless effort,” he said.
A Pakistani security official said Mullah Baradar had previously refused to meet Afghan officials during their visits in the past. Afghan government sources say Karzai had nominated a five-member team for second round of talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the scenic Murree.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2013.