Afghan peace process: Hizb-e-Islami begin preliminary talks

Two-member delegation meets peace council head to lay ground for negotiations with Afghan govt

Tahir Khan March 18, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Gulbuddin Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) has started talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul to lay the groundwork for peace negotiations with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, a senior leader of the insurgent group said on Thursday.

An HIA political committee delegation, led by Muhammad Amin Karim, met the head of the government-sponsored peace council, Pir Sayed Geelani, on Thursday and discussed with him matters related to the proposed peace process.

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“I can confirm that a two-member delegation of the political committee is involved in homework for the peace process,” head of the HIA political committee, Ghairat Baheer told The Express Tribune by telephone. He said the ‘technical delegation’ will also call on Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah.

According to an Afghan official familiar with developments, some Taliban leaders have also followed HIA’s cue and agreed to join the talks.

At the same time, however, Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has urged his fighters to intensify operations in the coming months. “The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are now in a much stronger position as they have achieved major gains and the series of victories are continuing. We should be ready for a final blow to the enemy,” Mansoor said in a message to his supporters.

Pakistan still has hopes

Pakistan said on Thursday that efforts are continuing for holding of direct talks between Afghan government and Taliban to achieve the objective of peace and stability in the region.

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“Efforts by the QCG (Quadrilateral Coordination Group) countries are continuing for holding the talks between Afghan government and the Taliban,” the Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakria said.

“It is a shared responsibility of all the four countries which are part of the QCG. At this stage I can only say that efforts are on and all the four countries are making their own efforts in their own domains to bring the Taliban groups as well as other groups to the negotiation table for direct talks between Afghan government and the groups invited for the talks,” he said at his weekly news briefing.

To a question about allegations levelled by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai against Pakistan, he condemned the anti-Pakistan campaign by some elements.

“We are aware of the negative sentiments spread against Pakistan, which is regrettable,” the spokesman said when he was asked to offer his comments on Hamid Karzai’s aspersions on Pakistan’s intentions during the recent visit to India.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2016.

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