Afghanistan hopeful of Pakistan’s help in peace drive

Hamid Karzai's spokesman says recent talks between the two countries were encouraging.

Reuters February 18, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan is optimistic that regional power Pakistan will help the Kabul government advance a reconciliation process with the Taliban, the Afghan president’s spokesman said on Saturday.

Pakistan, seen as crucial to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, has repeatedly said it wants peace in its neighbour.

Afghans, however, have always been suspicious of Pakistani intentions because of historical ties between Pakistani intelligence and insurgent groups like the Afghan Taliban.

Ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan were strained for months after the assassination in September of Afghan peace envoy and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Afghan officials blamed Pakistan’s intelligence agency, allegations angrily denied by Islamabad.

But talks this week between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leaders in Islamabad were encouraging, said Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi.

“We noticed a big change among the Pakistanis. The atmosphere is much better,” Faizi told Reuters in Islamabad. “We are more optimistic than before that they will support us.”

Faizi said Karzai made several demands when he met top Pakistani officials.

He would not list them but Afghanistan is known to want access to Taliban leaders belonging so the so-called Quetta Shura, named after the Pakistani city where it is said to be based.

They would be the decision makers in any substantive peace negotiations.

Change in mood              

Pakistan has consistently denied giving sanctuary to insurgents and denies the existence of any Quetta Shura, or leadership council.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said after a recent trip to Kabul that a lot of ill-will between Kabul and Islamabad had eased.

And she indicated Pakistan would encourage militant groups seeking to topple the US-backed Kabul government to pursue peace if asked by Afghanistan.

The apparent change in mood comes at a critical time when the Afghan government is exploring ways to reach the next stage of the reconciliation process – negotiations with the Taliban. So far, there have only been contacts, Afghan officials say.

The Afghan Taliban announced last month it would open a political office in Qatar, suggesting the group may be willing to engage in negotiations that could likely give it government positions or official control over much of its historical southern heartland.

Karzai’s government supports any talks that take place in Qatar, but it wants to widen the reconciliation process to other countries because that could make the effort more comprehensive.

Faizi said Afghanistan had a preference for holding the next phase of the reconciliation process in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“We want these two countries to facilitate the real (formal) talks,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has had some influence in Afghanistan since it supported mujahideen fighters against Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s. It has maintained a close relationship with Pakistan.


Aftab kenneth Wilson | 9 years ago | Reply

Help in peace drive or in PEACES ........The day all stake holders start minding and mending their own businesses all will go well. We have enough homegrown problems of our own so better to look after our own back-yards.

K. Salim Jahangir | 9 years ago | Reply

By suspecting Pakistan, Karzai will be spoiling his own case .If he wants Pakistan's help in real terms, he should be watchful of activities of other countries operating from under his nose against Pakistan.Those countries are far away where as Pakistan & Afghanistan will keep sharing their borders & stay where they are till dooms day.Northern Alliance should also realize that if one day they are in power in Afghanistan ,the ground realities will not change.Let us solve our problems if any amongst ourselves instead of playing in our adversaries hands.We all have suffered enough to learn our lessons.Pakistan has a lot to offer if we live peacefully.

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