Afghan Taliban leadership is in Pakistan, admits Aziz

Published: March 3, 2016


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s senior aide Sartaj Aziz has said for the first time publicly that the Afghan Taliban’s leadership enjoys a safe haven inside Pakistan, which Islamabad uses as a “lever” to pressure the group into talks with Kabul.

The admission by Sartaj Aziz comes after years of official denials by Islamabad that it offers shelter or exerts any influence over the Taliban, whose 14-year-insurgency against Afghan and NATO forces has claimed tens of thousands of civilian and military lives.

Pakistan not to blame for Afghan troubles, Aziz says on US visit

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington on Tuesday, he said: “We have some influence on them because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities, their families are here.”

“So we can use those levers to pressurise them to say: ‘Come to the table’,” he added, according to a transcript on the think tank’s website.

The remarks confirm what has become an open secret in diplomatic circles, particularly since Pakistan began brokering direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban last summer. The negotiations faltered after Afghan intelligence leaked the news the group’s founder Mullah Omar had died in 2013.

The Taliban later confirmed they lied about Omar’s death for two years, sowing divisions among the militants and anger at his successor Mullah Akhtar Mansour for leading the cover-up.

Kabul amenable to all but one Taliban demand

Most of the group’s leaders are believed to be residing in the southwestern city of Quetta with others in northwest Peshawar and southern Karachi.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China held their fourth round of talks aimed at reviving direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban late last month.

The four-country group invited Taliban representatives to return to negotiations by the first week of March, though a spokesperson for the militants later said they had not yet received an invitation.

Aziz said Islamabad had used the threat of expulsion to force the Taliban into the first round of talks.

“We already — before the 7th July meeting last year — we had to use some of these levers and restricted their movements, restricted their access to hospital and other facilities, and threatened them that if you do not come forward and talk, then obviously we will at least expel you,” he said.

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Aziz Pakistan’s role was as a “facilitator” and it was up to Kabul to make negotiations fruitful.

“We are not the actual negotiators. So I hope as we go along our sincerity in this task will be recognised, and with the hope that Afghan government will play a more active role for the success of these talks.”

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Faisal Afzal
    Mar 3, 2016 - 12:48PM

    Then why isn’t Pakistani public made aware of this? Pakistani people didn’t let these corrupt leaders stay in power so they could provide safe havens to any such elements. Their manifestos were to treat all banned organizations equally.Recommend

  • Tyggar
    Mar 3, 2016 - 1:37PM

    Self GoalRecommend

  • Travis
    Mar 3, 2016 - 1:50PM

    As if the rest of the world didn’t know this already! Duplicity is something they have come to expect.Recommend

  • Zaida Parvez
    Mar 3, 2016 - 1:51PM

    Why is Pakistan destroying itself? I don’t understand this at all !Recommend

  • Arsalan Mirza
    Mar 3, 2016 - 2:13PM

    @Faisal Afzal:
    Why are you blaming the politicians? Do you really think they can do any such thing even if they wanted to?Recommend

  • WHP
    Mar 3, 2016 - 2:16PM

    Tell straight away that the Snakes are in side our House. Recommend

  • Hameed
    Mar 3, 2016 - 2:36PM

    Aren’t attacks by these Taliban on other countries acts of war? Aren’t we playing a very dangerous game? What’s wrong with us?Recommend

  • khattak
    Mar 3, 2016 - 2:43PM

    It is direct admission of state culpibilty in terrorist acts like APS or Bacha Khan university massacres. Why not puRSUADE Taliban to stop TTP. After all Taliban are providing sancturies to TTP in Afghan mountains & villages. Recommend

  • Hameed
    Mar 3, 2016 - 2:44PM

    Aziz Pakistan’s role was as a “facilitator” and it was up to Kabul to make negotiations fruitful.

    You are harbouring and supporting these terrorist and its Afghanistan’s fault? If you didn’t continue to support these terrorists over years this problem would not be there. Amazing.Recommend

  • PKN
    Mar 3, 2016 - 2:49PM

    Who doesn’t know this. As the usual saying goes – it is a malicious plan to tarnish the image of Pakistan by USA, Israel and India.Recommend

  • Mar 3, 2016 - 3:10PM

    Look like MR Aziz want to make him self important. But these are not political issues. its strategic issues and politician keep away from it. Couldn’t he announce this news in Islamabad instead of in Washington instead. Mr Aziz is only a rubber stamp for PM & COAS. He has no foreign policy,Recommend

  • curious2
    Mar 3, 2016 - 4:10PM

    I suppose Kudos are in order for finally admitting the obvious. Perhaps an apology to the American’s and Afghan’s is also in order as it’s obvious that their criticism of Pakistan’s providing sanctuary/support was apparently correct.Recommend

  • nadeem
    Mar 3, 2016 - 4:47PM

    So let me get this straight. Our Army believes that Taliban on Pakistan side of the border is bad (because they kill school children). But Taliban on the Afghan side of the border is very good. Hmmmmm… IQ must be very small as I don’t understand this ‘strategy’Recommend

  • quatro
    Mar 3, 2016 - 9:19PM

    In the USA when you make a speech at The Council on Foreign Affairs the audience and press get a chance to ask questions. No doubt Aziz wasn’t used to being asked tough questions by an audience/press. Free Speech works – something Pakistan talks about but hasn’t really implemented.Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Mar 3, 2016 - 9:25PM

    Peace and democracy can be achieved in Afghanistan only if:
    (1) Pakistan and China are totally pushed out of everything that involves bringing peace and democracy in Afghanistan.
    (2) US, Afghanistan, India, and Iran should forma group and start discussions with talibans. If discussions don’t start to work immediately, they should go for total destruction of all talibans.

    There are signs that Iran is moving towards a moderate government as is seen by the huge electoral victory of the moderates over mullas there.Recommend

  • Observer
    Mar 3, 2016 - 11:32PM

    @Raj – USA: Taliban is plural of the word ‘Talib’, hence no need to affix ‘s’ at the end. You did not even know the plural of Talib and yet you claim to be expert about something that you have no idea about!

    Indeed, Iran is moving towards a moderate government but looks like India is on the back foot of moving back to intolerance under the current Hindu nationalist leadership.Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Mar 4, 2016 - 3:12AM

    There are many groups. Hence, to say talibans is correct. Something like water and waters. Depends on the context you are using.
    Moving to intolerance, I agree to an extent. But, Hindu nationalist ….. I love anyone who is a nationalist. Pakistan’s problems are because of lack of nationalism. Recommend

  • Khalid Masood
    Mar 4, 2016 - 8:13AM

    Who will trust Pakistan after this admission? Did Aziz make this confession after consulting his masters? I doubt it. He is old and senile and he may not be aware of the importance of his statements.Recommend

  • Observer
    Mar 4, 2016 - 12:47PM

    @Raj – USA:
    Taliban is not an English word at all, nor you are an authority over this to throw your self-generated narrative.

    Did India’s Hindu nationalism do away with problems of occupation of Kashmir and northeast, illiteracy, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh that is higher than all African countries combined? Nationalism is no solution to any problem, it teaches hatred of people other than your own. Recommend

  • Observer
    Mar 4, 2016 - 7:45PM

    @Raj – USA: Btw… a person who never forgets to include “USA” with his name must not speak about loving ‘nationalists’ back in his country. Recommend

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