Army chief General Raheel Sharif will fly to Kabul today (Sunday) for a daylong visit and meet Afghan leadership to discuss the reconciliation process, border management and security issues.
The army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa confirmed the news of General Raheel’s visit through the micro-blogging site Twitter and said General Raheel will hold meetings with the top Afghan civil and military leaders.
Afghan officials pin hopes on Gen Raheel’s visit
Later, talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday, the army’s chief spokesman said the Afghan peace process and future strategy would be chalked out during the meetings.
“Pakistan is fully included in the peace process. However there should be a sense of a shared responsibility and everyone will have to play their role,” he added.
Pakistan brokered the first-ever formal talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in July this year. However, the second round of talks was postponed at the eleventh hour after Afghan officials leaked news of the death of the Taliban’s long-time supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omer.
When asked if the military is carrying any specific plan to end the deadlock in the peace negotiations, Lt Gen Bajwa said both sides will exchange views on the issues and listen to each other. “All sides should play their role with full sincerity … Pakistan will continue efforts for peace with sincerity,” he said.
Pakistan Army helped revive talks with India
He said Pakistan considers peace in Afghanistan similar to peace in Pakistan. “The visit is very important and we will explore ways how to move forward,” he added.
The army chief’s visit comes ahead of a quadrilateral meeting of senior diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US.
At the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HOA-IP), leaders and senior officials of the four countries had agreed to work for the early resumption of the Afghan peace process.
Afghan leaders have also attached hopes to the visit as they believe it could determine direction for the resumption of the peace process.
Senior Afghan officials told a Pakistani delegation to a non-official security dialogue in Kabul that there is a ‘window of opportunity’ in the coming months to push for the peace process to stop the Taliban’s major attacks before the weather warms up.
Last week, President Ghani said the peace process should resume ‘in weeks, not months’. A section of the Afghan media quoted the National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar as saying that talks could begin in ‘two to three weeks’.
Gen Raheel calls for revival of stalled Afghan peace talks
Ahead of the army chief’s visit to Kabul, Afghan President Ghani also telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz on Friday. “Both the leaders discussed matters of mutual interest besides regional issues,” Pakistan’s state-run media claimed on Friday.
Diplomatic sources in Kabul had earlier told The Express Tribune that the National Unity Government would have to evolve a consensus on key issues including peace talks with the Taliban before any role by Pakistan and other countries. "Afghan leaders have a different opinion on the talks with the Taliban that could be an obstacle," a source said.
However, senior Taliban officials said they “do not have any new plan for talks so far.” A senior Taliban leader told The Express Tribune that Taliban are “neither under pressure for talks nor will accept any pressure.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2015.