Taliban leaders lay groundwork for talks in ‘secret visit’ to Pakistan

Published: February 13, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

A two-member Afghan Taliban delegation, led by the head of the group’s political office in Qatar, paid a secret visit to Pakistan last week as part of preparations for the formal resumption of direct talks with the Afghan government, official sources revealed to The Express Tribune on Friday.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, who is heading the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, and Qari Din Muhammad travelled to Islamabad the same day when senior officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States held talks to finalise the roadmap for the Afghan reconciliation process.

As many Taliban groups as possible should join talks: Aziz

The meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was held on February 6 during which a tentative date was picked for the resumption of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The Taliban team, according to sources, held informal discussions with senior officials of the four countries, which are part of the quadrilateral process. However, there was no official confirmation of the Taliban delegation’s visit by either side.

One source claimed that the Afghan Taliban reportedly shared a list of their representatives who would attend the formal talks. They also discussed confidence-building measures for creating an environment conducive to the resumption of talks.

This is the first time that Taliban’s Qatar office is taking part in the peace initiative backed by both China and the US.

Taliban toughen stance on peace talks ahead of quadrilateral meeting

When first-ever direct talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government took place in July last year in Pakistan, the Taliban’s political office in Qatar distanced itself from the process.

It was because the then head of Taliban’s political office Sayed Tayab Agha was against the peace process brokered by Pakistan.

Tayab Agha, however, resigned after Mullah Akhtar Mansoor took over as head of the insurgent group following the confirmation of the death of Mullah Omar.

Mansur then appointed Abbas Stanekzai to succeed Tayab Agha. Since Stanekazi is in favour of peace talks, his appointment means that now the Taliban’s Qatar office will have a central role in the peace talks.

A Pakistani official with knowledge of back channel activities said the visit of the Taliban delegation is clear proof that “we are walking the talk.”

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said formal talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are likely to resume within days. Officials from Pakistan, China and the US will also attend the crucial parleys.

Peace talks, round-II: Kabul, Taliban may agree on ceasefire

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s new ambassador to Pakistan, Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, met army chief General Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Friday.

According to a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations, “matters of mutual interest including measures to improve security along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were discussed” at the meeting.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Observer
    Feb 13, 2016 - 5:34PM

    The headline is either misleading or ignorant of the ground reality. When their stay in Pakistan is not secret, why should their visit be one?Recommend

  • Feb 13, 2016 - 7:58PM

    But Chacha Sartaj Aziz would deny Pakistan control over Afghan Taliban.Recommend

  • Shuaib
    Feb 13, 2016 - 8:49PM

    Afghanistan should be the central player. If anything goes wrong we will get blamed!! Pakistanis are done with all of this.Recommend

  • Burhan Khan
    Feb 13, 2016 - 10:46PM

    Hope they hide all the red heart shape balloons when our lost brothers visit us, it might shock them and make them angry.Recommend

  • Hameed
    Feb 14, 2016 - 6:03AM

    @Shuaib:

    Pakistanis are done with all of this.

    Establishment obviously does not agree with you.Recommend

  • Tipu
    Feb 14, 2016 - 8:41AM

    Where are drones when you need them? All the rotten eggs in one basket is a rare event.Recommend

  • Sameer
    Feb 14, 2016 - 9:40PM

    @PkMAP:
    And he would be right in denying it. Pakistan doesn’t control the Afghan Taliban like a remote control; it has “influence” over that group. Anyone who has ever worked for an intelligence agency will tell you that all such agencies maintain “influence” and lines of communication with elements like the Afghan Taliban, it doesn’t at all imply direct control. And given how fragmented the Afghan Taliban insurgency is, with its independent field commanders, there is no reason to say Pakistan controls them like you claim.Recommend

  • Majid
    Feb 14, 2016 - 9:43PM

    @Shuaib:
    Afghanistan has repeatedly and amply demonstrated its ineligibility to be the central player. That’s why the international community (including the USA and China) insists on making Pakistan the central character. All that Afghanistan has done is torpedo every peace initiative right when it starts to get off the ground.Recommend

  • Salman
    Feb 14, 2016 - 9:45PM

    @Tipu:
    Why would the Americans want to drone attack these visitors? They’re a part of the peace talks with the insurgency that they desperately need, they would never be stupid enough to drone bomb them now when the peace talks are progressing as they wanted.Recommend

  • Zaka
    Feb 14, 2016 - 9:46PM

    @Burhan Khan:
    Your comment is just irrelevant spam.Recommend

  • Murad
    Feb 14, 2016 - 9:47PM

    @Observer:
    And your whole point was…?Recommend

  • Dar
    Feb 14, 2016 - 9:49PM

    @Observer:
    Secret or no secret, believe me it makes not an ounce of difference.Recommend

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