Hiccups in Afghan talks

FO confirms Pakistan not going to attend talks to be held in Doha between US and Taliban

Editorial April 13, 2019

The recent flare-up in diplomatic tension between Islamabad and Kabul has had its impact on the ongoing process for peace in Afghanistan. The Foreign Office has confirmed that Pakistan is not going to attend the talks scheduled to be held in Doha later this month between the US and the Taliban.

While the Foreign Office did not elaborate on the whys and the wherefores of the pullout decision, the last month’s diplomatic spat between the governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan — sparked off by Prime Minister Imran Khan urging President Ashraf Ghani to install an interim set-up in the country and conduct impartial elections, in line with one of the demands from the Taliban — is understood to have played its part.

President Ghani deemed PM Imran’s reported remarks “an obvious example of Pakistan’s interventional policy”. Ghani also recalled his ambassador from Islamabad, besides summoning Pakistan’s deputy ambassador in Kabul to discuss the ‘irresponsible’ remarks. US Ambassador to Kabul John Bass even went to the extent of schooling PM Imran on diplomacy — something that drew an even stronger reaction from Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, who called the US envoy a ‘little pygmy’.

The Foreign Office clarified the PM’s remarks, helping to ease the diplomatic tension — only to be reignited days later, with the PM calling his remarks a ‘brotherly advice’ to Afghanistan. This led to Kabul again summoning the Pakistani envoy in Kabul to lodge a formal protest.

That PM Imran’s remarks only aimed at breaking the stalemate in the Afghan peace talks should not be doubted. That Pakistan has always acted in line with the spirit of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process should not be doubted either. And that peace in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan the most in the entire region cannot be debated. With Afghanistan appearing on the verge of peace, it’s time for President Ghani to be a facilitator rather than an irritant.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2019.

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