Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States have agreed to offer a safe passage to ‘reconcilable’ Afghan Taliban.
The decision was announced at the conclusion of a trilateral meeting in Islamabad attended by senior officials from the three countries to discuss measures that seek to expedite the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. After months of discussions, the ‘core group’ appears to have taken a major step to bring the ‘reconcilable Taliban’ to the negotiating table.
Addressing a joint news conference, US special envoy for the region Marc Grossman, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin said they would form a group of experts to consider the proposal.
The group would help arrange a safe passage for the Taliban who would travel for peace talks to Pakistan, overseas and also in Afghanistan.
However, the success of the new initiative remains to be seen as many experts believe that previous attempts to lure foot-soldiers from the Taliban have failed.
Nevertheless, representatives from the three countries described the proposal as a step in the right direction.
“We need to be able to find them – those who are willing to talk wherever they are,” the Afghan deputy foreign minister told reporters. “We need to provide … a safe passage and an environment where they feel safe and confident that they can engage in peace talks without any consequence.”
Foreign Secretary Jilani termed the imitative a ‘tangible accomplishment’ of the core group since it was established last year as part of efforts to hold direct talks with the Afghan Taliban.
“An important aspect of this group will be the establishment of a subgroup on the safe passage,” Jilani added.
Marc Grossman also welcomed the idea saying his country had a clear purpose: “To hasten the conversation among Afghans about the future of Afghanistan.”
“For us, we have been very clear and we have been very consistent about what the necessary outcomes in such a peace process would include if the Taliban and other insurgents break their ties with al Qaeda and abide by the Afghan constitution,” he emphasised.
He also underlined Pakistan’s ‘very important role’ for the peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration has been struggling for months to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban as it prepares for the withdrawal of its troops by the end of 2014.
Grossman meets Zardari, Gilani
Meanwhile, the US special envoy continued his discussions on the second-day running with Pakistani leaders as part of efforts to mend bilateral ties that were strained due to last year’s Nato air strikes.
Grossman held separate meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
According to an official statement, President Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s opposition to drone attacks inside the country’s tribal belt, calling them counter-productive.
Pakistan has always maintained that drone attacks are highly counter-productive in the war against terrorism as it inflames public sentiments due to innocent civilian casualties, the statement added.
President Zardari suggested that both sides consider setting up a framework for a mechanism to find mutually acceptable alternatives to predator strikes in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Gilani told the visiting US envoy that Pakistan wanted a relationship with the US based on mutual respect and mutual trust.
Grossman concurred and said that it was of fundamental importance to build a partnership based on mutual respect and interests including respect for territorial integrity of both countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.