ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has cautioned that the US-backed Afghan reconciliation plan might not succeed if Islamabad is left out, in a statement that indicates growing ‘frustration’ among the country’s top political and military leadership at being kept away from President Karzai’s peace efforts with the Taliban. “Any Afghan reconciliation plan, which excludes Pakistan, is not going to achieve the desired results,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told diplomatic correspondents here on Friday.
He said the Afghan president had yet to share with Pakistan details of his plan to reach out to the Taliban, who are willing to renounce violence and al Qaeda. “President Karzai promised to share his reconciliation plan with Pakistan and we are still waiting for it,” he added.
The plan unveiled by Karzai at the London conference earlier this year is aimed at wooing the “reconcilable” Taliban into the Afghan political fold in an effort to end years of bloodshed in the war-ravaged country.
The US also backed the process and recently a top American military official confirmed giving safe passage to unnamed Taliban leaders for negotiations with the Karzai administration.
But there are reports which suggest that Pakistan is being kept out of the process. And Prime Minister Gilani’s insistence on Pakistan’s participation in the proposed plan appears to confirm such reports.
“We believe the peace process will have to be an Afghan-led process but no negotiations would succeed if Pakistan is excluded from it,” said Gilani. US policymakers and former diplomats in Washington are concerned over the development.
In an article recently published in The Wall Street Journal, Ryan Crocker, who was US Ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, criticised the Obama administration’s policy for the region. “Any talks between the US or Afghanistan and the Taliban must be transparent to the Pakistanis,” he wrote.
A nightmare for Islamabad is the prospect that the Americans and Afghans come to some accommodation with the Taliban that would leave them hostile to Pakistan. “If Islamabad is not part of the process, we will be working at cross-purposes and only the Taliban will benefit,” he warned. Many analysts believe Pakistan’s arrest of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — at a time when he had begun reconciliation talks with the Afghan authorities — underscored the risks of leaving Islamabad out of the loop.
Prime Minister Gilani also objected to the US policy of bracketing Pakistan with Afghanistan under its so-called ‘Af-Pak policy’. “Pakistan should not have been bracketed with Afghanistan,” he said.
Gilani also disclosed that former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf had allowed US drones to make reconnaissance flights over the country’s tribal belt. “The previous government gave them permission for surveillance and reconnaissance flights by US drone aircraft but not to launch missile attacks,” he said.
However, he denied that US drones were taking off from a military base in Sindh. “We will find out” when asked about reports that drones were using the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2010.
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