Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa held one-on-one meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Chairman Dr Abdullah Abdullah during his visit to Kabul, the military’s media wing said on Tuesday.
Accompanied by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed and Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq, the army chief discussed “current developments in the Afghan peace process and necessary steps to be undertaken to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process” during an unannounced visit to Kabul, added the ISPR statement.
#COAS held one-on-one meetings with President @ashrafghani & Chairman High Council for National Reconciliation of #Afghanistan, @DrabdullahCE. COAS was accompanied by PM’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Affairs, Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/649YPDeUJ4— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) June 9, 2020
On its official Twitter account, the Pakistan embassy in Kabul released a picture of General Bajwa and Ghani at the presidential palace.
The visit by the COAS is being perceived in connection with the ongoing efforts seeking a solution to the United States war in Afghanistan -- a conflict which has lasted nearly two decades. This is the first visit to Kabul by a high-ranking Pakistani official since Ghani’s second term in office began.
It comes ahead of the imminent intra-Afghan talks and only two days after US President Donald Trump’s point man for Afghanistan held talks with General Bajwa to discuss the next steps for advancing the peace process that has moved slowly since the landmark deal signed between the US and Afghan Taliban on February 29.
The two sided also discussed issues related to facilitation of “trade and connectivity”, the statement further said. “Both the sides agreed that a dignified and time-bound return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is key to [returning of] normalcy [in the region].”
On the other hand, President Ashraf Ghani expressed his appreciation for the prime minister of Pakistan for opening of the Torkham and Chaman border points, allowing Afghan transit goods and facilitating stranded Afghans to return to their country by land and air routes, said the ISPR and added the Afghan president was also “appreciative of the role being played by Pakistan for [the] Afghan peace process”.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Presidential Palace said President Ghani and Gen Bajwa discussed Pakistan’s support for the peace process, and also discussed how "the soil of either country should not be used against the other".
Bajwa said in the meeting with President Ghani that his country “will support an independent and democratic Afghanistan”, the Palace said.
The statement added that more details from the meeting will be made public through a joint statement from the foreign ministries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Also, Abdullah in a statement said that he had productive talks with Bajwa and he (Abdullah) stressed the unique opportunity to further the cause of peace in Afghanistan and stability in the region as the High Council for National Reconciliation and Afghan leaders take necessary steps toward intra-Afghan negotiations.
“Gen. Bajwa expressed Pakistan's support for our efforts and for the earliest possible start of intra-Afghan talks,” Abdullah said. “I told him that we are ready to engage with the Taliban on our common issues and to end the conflict and live together in peace. I reiterated Pakistan’s constructive role in this regard.”
The bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is often marred by deep mistrust, but Tuesday’s visit of General Bajwa implies a positive development between the neighbouring countries going forward, as well as progress in the peace process.
Earlier, the US point person on the matter, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with army chief General Bajwa and DG ISI Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed and other senior security personnel in Islamabad.
On Monday, Khalilzad had also met with a Taliban delegation in Qatar, which was highlighted as another development in the progress with sources claiming that the intra-Afghan talks are expected to take place by the end of this month.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the dialogue will likely happen virtually but recent developments suggest all parties are working towards stabilising the conflict.
Pakistan has played a pivotal role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table with the US and eventually led to the deal between the US and the insurgents.
On February 29, the US signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in Doha, but its attempts to usher the insurgent group towards peace talks with the Afghan government were mired in setbacks and violence surged in March and April.