Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s two-day visit to Pakistan will focus on peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and the establishment of an independent relationship with Pakistan, the country’s ambassador said on Wednesday.
Karzai, who arrives in Islamabad today (February 16), will be on his second trip to the country in nine months. He last visited Pakistan in June, 2011.
“President Hamid Karzai will expect Pakistan to facilitate contacts and dialogue with Taliban,” Daudzai told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.
Asked if Pakistan would be willing to deliver on such expectations, the ambassador said, “Yes, we are hopeful and want Pakistan to give a more clear answer to our expectations.”
Insisting that Pakistan was in a position to facilitate talks with the Taliban, Daudzai recalled Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar promise in her recent visit to Kabul that Islamabad will do whatever it can to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
Furthermore, the ambassador claimed that Karzai would also call for ‘independent relationship’ with Pakistan in his bilateral talks with Pakistani leaders.
“President Karazi has stated on several occasions that he wants an independent relationship with Pakistan,” Daudzai said, adding that the visit will mark the reboot of high-level contacts between the two countries which were severely ‘weakened and suspended’ following last year’s assassination of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
President Karzai will also represent Afghanistan in a trilateral summit with his Pakistani and Iranian counterparts, the ambassador said.
The three presidents are due to conduct two sessions, one on Thursday and a second on Friday. However, the summit will focus on economic and trade cooperation, according to the ambassador. Daudzai went on to say that Karzai would be accompanied by members of his Core Policy Group that includes the foreign minister, national security adviser and chief of staff.
Karzai desires religious honchos support
The Afghan president is also seeking the support of Pakistan’s politico-religious leadership, officials told The Express Tribune.
The eponymous chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Maulana Samiul Haq confirmed that the Afghan embassy had been in contact with him to arrange a meeting between him and the Afghan leader.
“They (embassy officials) told me that President Karzai wants a one-on-one meeting with me,” Haq told The Express Tribune from Akora Khattak, where he operates one of the biggest Islamic seminaries of the country.
Top cadres of the Afghan Taliban are believed to have attended the institution, known as ‘Madrassah Haqqani,’ and Samiul Haq is thought to have immense influence on the Afghan Taliban.
“I will consult my party leaders before making a decision on the invitation,” the Maulana said.
A JUI-F central leader also confirmed to The Express Tribune that the Afghan mission has approached them, seeking a meeting with their party chief.
He added that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who will be in Bangladesh during the Afghan president’s visit, has empowered a JUI-F delegation to meet with Karzai.
An Afghan diplomat has also approached Jamaat-e-Islami, which maintains a strong relationship with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami, seeking Karzai’s meeting with the party’s former chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed. However, it could not be confirmed whether such a meeting would take place.
The Afghan embassy will seek official consent from the Foreign Office for these proposed meetings.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2012.
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