US Charge d’Affairs to Pakistan Angela Aggeler on Friday called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi and appreciated Islamabad’s "sincere efforts for peace and stability in the region, especially the Afghan peace process."
The development came as Pakistan had proposed to host a peace conference for a political solution in Afghanistan. However, it was postponed following the refusal by the Afghan government to sent its delegation.
“The Afghan Peace Conference scheduled to be held in Islamabad from 17-19 July has been postponed until after Eidul Azha,” a brief statement issued by the Foreign Office.
The new dates of the conference will be announced later, the statement added.
The Express Tribune has learnt that many proposals were on the table at the conference including a follow-up conference to be attended by the Afghan Taliban representatives.
Pakistani authorities are worried that given the fast-paced developments taking place in Afghanistan, the conference may lose its efficacy if it is delayed beyond a certain time.
The ISPR statement said that during the meeting between the army chief and the US envoy, matters of mutual interest, regional and current security situation in Afghanistan and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.
On the occasion, General Qamar said that Pakistan desired to maintain the tradition of bilateral engagement with the United States and wished for long term and multi-domain enduring relationship.
The US dignitary, the statement said, appreciated "Pakistan’s sincere efforts for peace and stability in the region, especially the Afghan peace process."
The Afghan Peace Conference was set to be held in Islamabad. A number of Afghan leaders including former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Salahuddin Rabbani, a former foreign minister, Omar Zakhilwal, a former finance minister, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior leader of ethnic Hazara minority community, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former warlord-turned politician, and Ahmad Wali Masoud were invited to the three-day conference.
A senior Pakistani official while speaking on condition of anonymity had already told The Express Tribune that the Afghan government was reluctant to send its delegation, although many prominent Afghan leaders had confirmed their participation.
The meeting was postponed after Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Ashraf Ghani met in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the regional connectivity summit. Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Faiz Hameed was also present in the meeting.
Sources said that President Ghani requested for the postponement and sought more time for the preparation.
The Pakistani official, however, expressed disappointment over the postponement, saying time is running out and hence urgent steps are needed to seek a political settlement.
“Who knows by the time this conference takes place, Afghan Taliban may take control of more districts and areas and it will only weaken the position of the Afghan government,” the official said.
Officials in Islamabad are also baffled by the rapid gains made by the Afghan Taliban in the face of Afghan security forces offering little resistance.
“How can you allow the Taliban to take control of the Spin Boldak border crossing? It is unbelievable that Afghan security forces have offered no resistance,” the official wondered, saying Spin Boldak is the most important area of Afghanistan after Kabul.
“More than 30 per cent revenue of Afghanistan comes from the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing,” the official said, highlighting its significance.
Nevertheless, officials said Pakistan is committed to the peace efforts as any unrest in the neighbouring country would have huge implications for Pakistan.
PM Imran during a speech at the regional connectivity summit in Uzbekistan said it was extremely unfair to blame Pakistan for the mess in Afghanistan.
He reiterated his stance that Pakistan’s influence over the Afghan Taliban diminished after the US announced a troop’s withdrawal date. He said Pakistan used all available means short of military action to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.
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