Pakistan has launched a fresh diplomatic push to resume the stalled Afghan peace talks just days before the country is scheduled to host a crucial regional conference on Afghanistan.
As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accepted Pakistan’s invitation to inaugurate the Heart of Asia-Istanbul ministerial conference next week in Islamabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proposed a ‘quadrilateral initiative’ to restart the Afghan reconciliation process.
Afghan peace process: Nawaz, Ghani agree to take ‘legitimate’ stakeholders onboard
The idea — floated by the prime minister during his meeting with the Afghan president in Paris on Monday on the sidelines of the international climate summit — envisages collective efforts by Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States to revive the moribund process.
Pakistan brokered the first-ever direct talks between Kabul and Afghan Taliban in the hill town of Murree in the first week of July. A followup meeting was called off at the eleventh hour after Afghan officials leaked news of longtime Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death.
The development also coincided with a spike in violence in Afghanistan and quick deterioration in the relations between Kabul and Islamabad. However, Prime Minister Nawaz used his meeting with Ghani to renew Pakistan’s offer of facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
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A statement issued by the Foreign Office on Tuesday not only confirmed the visit of Ghani on December 9 but also said that Pakistani and Afghan leaders would be joined by senior US and Chinese officials in Islamabad next week to thrash out a roadmap for peace talks.
“Pakistan believes the US and China, which were associated with Murree Peace Process, are vital partners in this process,” the statement added.
“We would also welcome the support of other friendly powers in this endeavour. Pakistan would, therefore, welcome a quadrilateral initiative to restart the reconciliation process,” the statement said quoting the Prime Minister Nawaz as telling the Afghan President Ghani.
It added that the upcoming conference on Afghanistan ‘provides a welcome opportunity’ to evolve a common roadmap for result oriented reconciliation in Afghanistan. “Pakistan does not believe in any blame-game, and instead would like to make renewed efforts to resurrect the peace and reconciliation process,” it said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to visit Pakistan next week
According to the statement, Nawaz told Ghani that Pakistan was confident that the Afghan government and the Taliban would step forward with concrete ideas and proposals and engage in meaningful reconciliation talks. “Pakistan is prepared to extend its full support and assistance in promoting any such initiative,” Nawaz said.
Explaining Pakistan’s position, the premier said there were two broad approaches to handle instability in Afghanistan—the military option or negotiated peace process.
“Pakistan believes that the use of force alone may not achieve peace in Afghanistan. On the other hand, a robust and meaningful reconciliation process, if pursued seriously, has better prospects of establishing a lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
Afghan president ‘accepts invitation’ to meet PM Nawaz
He said he was also looking forward to discussions on the sidelines on how the two countries and the US and China could work together to pick up the thread of the reconciliation process, from where it was left off in July 2015.
Diplomatic sources said Ghani agreed to travel to Pakistan after the US and China persuaded the Afghan leader to re-engage with Islamabad. Both Washington and Beijing warned Ghani that any delay in striking a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban could embolden the Islamic State in the war-torn country.
The prime minister’s assurance of not allowing Pakistan’s territory to be used against Afghanistan also played a part in convincing the Afghan president for making fresh efforts for repairing ties with Pakistan as well as giving peace talks a chance to succeed.
Nawaz stressed the need for both countries to take steps to ensure that terrorist groups were not allowed any sanctuaries on the soil of either country. “Pakistan has vowed to act against all terrorists. There are no good or bad terrorists,” he assured Ghani.
Apart from discussing the prospects of reviving the stalled peace talks, the two countries are expected to discuss the border management issues during the visit of Afghan President.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2015.
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