ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday assured Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s pointman for the region that Pakistan would make all-out efforts to seek an end to the “bloodshed” in the neighboring country.
The assurance came amid reports that the Afghan Taliban cancelled planned talks with US officials in Doha, scheduled for this week, over Washington’s insistence for participation of Afghan government representatives in the two-day parleys.
Pakistan and other stakeholders have been making efforts in recent weeks to persuade the Taliban leadership to include Afghan government officials in the ongoing peace talks. The insurgents have also called off the follow-up of Abu Dhabi talks to be hosted by Saudi Arabia.
The hardline stance taken by the Taliban is one of the major reasons behind the visit of Mohammad Umer Daudzai, the Afghan President’s Special Envoy for Regional Consensus for Afghan Peace, to Pakistan.
He is touring Islamabad with the hope that Pakistan will use its good offices to convince the Taliban for holding talks with the Ghani administration. The Taliban have repeatedly rejected such offers, insisting that they would not talk to the “puppet government” in Kabul.
Against this backdrop, Daudzai, who had served as Afghan interior minister as well as ambassador to Pakistan, held talks with Foreign Minister Qureshi at the Foreign Office.
Officials familiar with the closed-door meeting confirmed that bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table with Afghan government was the main talking point. Qureshi, according to the officials, briefed President Ghani’s senior aide about the talks in Abu Dhabi and also the future course of action.
The talks in Abu Dhabi were brokered by Pakistan and also attended by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and representatives from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
For the first time, the Taliban have representation of their military and political wings at the talks, raising hopes of a possible peace deal.
But the insurgents’ refusal not to engage with the Afghan government appears to be a major stumbling block in the way of any forward movement.
An official handout issued by the foreign office here said that Qureshi told the Afghan president’s envoy that peace and stability in Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own best national interest, and necessary for economic development and prosperity of the region.
He highlighted the growing international convergence on the need for ending the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan through peaceful settlement of conflict. Qureshi assured that Pakistan would do everything to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to bloodshed and enter a new phase of peace and prosperity.
The Afghan special envoy conveyed greetings of President Ghani for the Pakistani leadership, while expressing Afghan government’s strong desire to work closely with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest.
He conveyed the deep appreciation of the sincerity and vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Daudzai stated that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s three visits to Kabul within a span of four months were a clear proof of Pakistan’s strong support for Afghanistan.
Daudzai also briefed the Foreign Minister about his role in helping create harmony among various stakeholders. He noted that both Pakistan and Afghanistan had a unique relationship marked by commonalities and similarities of interests.
This opportunity needed to be fully utilised by cementing various bilateral mechanisms of cooperation, said the hand out. Daudzai expressed Afghan government’s strong desire to make maximum use of the excellent framework provided by the APAPPS in all areas of cooperation. “Enhancing bilateral trade and economic activities and more regular cultural and people-to-people contacts were the need of the hour.”
Both sides agreed to regular exchanges of high-level visits to create greater harmony and coordination on various areas of mutual interest. “Truly reflective of the brotherly feelings between the two peoples, the close cultural and historical bonds must be harnessed to usher the Pak-Afghan partnership into the new era for mutual benefit of both countries,” the hand out said