Quadrilateral meeting begins in Oman with hope for peace in Afghanistan

Published: October 16, 2017
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QCG meeting held in Islamabad in 2016. PHOTO: PID

QCG meeting held in Islamabad in 2016. PHOTO: PID

KARACHI: As the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on Monday began its meeting in Oman to revive the moribund peace process in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials are of the belief that the use of military force cannot end the longest and most expensive war in American history.

The QCG comprises Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and the United States. It was set up in January 2016 to find a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

The quartet has held five meetings, but the process hit a dead-end in May 2016 after the killing of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a US drone strike in Balochistan. The strike was construed by analysts as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the dialogue process.

Tehmina Janjua reiterates call for Afghan govt, Taliban talks for peace

After a hiatus of a year-and-a-half, the group convened in Muscat on Monday. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua is representing Pakistan at the session. Though Pakistan was quite proactive in the previous meetings,  this time around it is following a different approach, sources told The Express Tribune.

“There has been no official statement from the Foreign Office before the departure of Janjua for Muscat, which shows a lack of enthusiasm on the part of Pakistan,” one source added.

The approach may be founded owing to the blame game from Kabul administration and Washington, including what the state believes are deliberate attempts from certain quarters in Afghanistan to undermine Pakistani-brokered peace efforts.

The Murree Process, initiated due to the efforts of former COAS General Raheel Sharif, was allegedly sabotaged by the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, when it leaked the news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

India ‘not responsible’ for Pak-Afghan tensions

Officials say the NDS is colluding with India’s top spy agency, RAW, to destabilise Pakistan.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence, has welcomed the revival of the QCG, saying that Pakistan is the “most pivotal player in the meeting”.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Mushahid said the recent meeting between army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul might have helped revived the QCG process.

This is one of the first steps to ‘enhance confidence’ between the two countries, he added.

Talking about previous peace efforts by Pakistan, he reiterated that Mullah Omer’s death had been used as a decoy to damage peace efforts. “There are elements, for instance, India, which do not want Pakistan to play a lead role in the peace process,” he said.

He insisted that Pakistan holds the biggest stake in the success of the meeting. “We will do what we can with our limited leverage.”

The QCG comes weeks after US President Trump emphasised on a military victory in Afghanistan, indicating a change in gears for the Trump administration. “Trump has his mood swings,”  Mushahid said. “One day he [Trump] says he would be honoured to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the next day he calls him ‘rocket man’”.

“Irrespective of Trump’s mood swings, our policy is consistent,” he said.

“We have a strategic stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan. We will always be here,” he said, adding, ” The US may be here today, they may not be here tomorrow.”

Mushahid believes it has dawned on the US that they cannot afford confrontation any longer. “War rhetoric with North Korea, confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin, containing China, and scrutinising the Iran nuclear deal afresh. How much pressure can the US sustain?”

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