In a first, Taliban invite journalists to Doha office

Published: December 1, 2016
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ISLAMABAD: After years of pursuing ‘quiet’ diplomacy, Afghan Taliban negotiators in Qatar have finally broken their silence and responded to questions — posed by an elite group of Kabul-based journalists — regarding the on-going war in Afghanistan and peace prospects.

Six media representatives from two major TV channels, a leading newspaper and political analysts have been invited amid reports that the Qatar office has been involved in holding internal discussions to chalk out a strategy for peace negotiations.

Interestingly, the Taliban invitees included famous anchor Shahpur Bakhtiyar from Tolo TV which was attacked by a Taliban bomber in January. At least seven Tolo employees were killed in the attack.

Angry at the TV’s coverage of Taliban-controlled Kunduz, the Taliban had defended the attack, saying the TV aired “false allegations against mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate”.

Dr Faiz Muhammad Zaland, a university teacher who is part of the six-member delegation, while confirming the visit, said the Taliban had sent them a formal invitation last week.

Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, head of the Taliban office, talked about a number of issues, including how to end the war, women’s rights, the presence of foreign forces and the possibility of peace talks, Dr Zaland said in an article published on the ‘nunn.asia’ website on Wednesday.

The Taliban’s Qatar office spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told the visitors that the political representatives would respond to the concerns and demands of the journalists and analysts.

Lateef Nazari, a university teacher and political observer, asked the Taliban how it would respond to public concerns about development and culture challenges in view of the ongoing war, according to Zaland.

Shaheen urged the media representatives to not hide corruption and mismanagement of the government, and counter Iran, Pakistan and the western cultural ‘invasion’.

Asadullah Wahidi, editor of the daily Sernavesht supported talks with the Taliban, but insisted that there were a lot of concerns about the policies being pursued by the Taliban.

Mirwais Stanekzai, an anchorperson for Shamshad TV, asked the Taliban representatives to share the alternative system they have in mind for Afghanistan.

The Taliban were also asked: “Which Islamic country do you want Afghanistan to emulate?”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2016.

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