Pakistan will seek clarity on peace-making efforts with the Taliban when Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf travels to Kabul next week on his maiden trip.
Ashraf is due to visit Kabul on July 16, in his first foreign trip since becoming the prime minister. Officials told The Express Tribune that Ashraf’s upcoming visit now has greater significance in view of a recent breakthrough in ties between Pakistan and the United States.
Relations between the two shaky allies have improved since Islamabad lifted the over seven-month old ban on vital land routes for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
A senior foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the easing of tensions between Islamabad and Washington was expected to have a ‘positive’ impact on the ongoing Afghan reconciliation efforts. The official said talks between Prime Minister Ashraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai would largely focus on expediting the reconciliation process.
He also said Pakistan was willing to support Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan driven efforts to bring the Taliban on the negotiation table. However, at the moment there is lack of clarity on part of both the US and the Karzai administration on how to move forward, said the official.
“There have been efforts in recent years to engage the Taliban but those efforts failed to achieve any objective,” said another official. He attributed the ‘lack of progress’ to the US and Afghanistan engaging the militants separately. “Unless there is concerted effort taking all the stakeholders on board, such attempts are bound to fail,” the official pointed out.
He maintained that Pakistan did not want any ambiguity on efforts to bring the Taliban in the fold and the centre-stage for these peace-making efforts should be taken by Kabul. The approach appears to indicate that Pakistan is not in favour of what is known as the “Qatar initiative” launched by the US to hold direct negotiations with the Taliban.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US have already established a trilateral mechanism but due to apparent trust deficit, all sides seem to be keeping their cards close to their chests.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.