Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to resume stalled talks on Afghanistan’s peace process, with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf pledging to help arrange meetings between Afghan and Taliban representatives.
Following day-long talks in Kabul, Britain’s visiting Prime Minister David Cameron, Premier Ashraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said they had agreed to resume meetings of the two-track peace commission.
The three leaders first held a trilateral meeting and later Karzai and Ashraf, whose visit to Kabul was his first in his new role, had separate talks, which lasted over two hours.
Prime Minister Ashraf was accompanied by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General Zaheerul Islam, in talks with the top Afghan authorities that one official described ‘as frank and candid’.
A joint statement issued after the talks said the two countries would soon resume regular meetings of the ‘two-tier’ joint commission to seek peace with the Taliban.
The commission was suspended last year following the assassination of former Afghan president and peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani. Afghan officials publicly accused the ISI for being behind his assassination, a charge strongly refuted by Islamabad.
But now, after months of deadlock, the Afghan High Peace Council, led by Rabbani’s son, will soon arrive in Islamabad to revive the crucial process between the two countries and evolve a joint strategy to seek a peaceful end to the Afghan conflict.
The recent decision by Islamabad to lift the seven-month old ban on Nato supplies passing through the country is believed to have persuaded Kabul to resume regular talks with Pakistan on the issue.
At a joint news conference at the presidential palace, PM Ashraf said his government decided to reopen vital land routes for foreign forces in order to facilitate the Afghan peace process.
President Karzai told reporters that the two countries had in-depth discussions on the issue of Afghan reconciliation process and they exchanged ‘key’ proposals.
Prime Minister Ashraf strongly dispelled the impression that his country was doing little to help the Afghan administration reach senior Taliban leaders.
“Let me assure you that Pakistan does not support any terrorists. It is not in our interest and we cannot afford it,” Ashraf told reporters. “Pakistan is playing the role of facilitator ... If Pakistan can facilitate in any manner, we will do it,” he added.
‘No favourites in Afghanistan’
Earlier, the prime minister held talks with Northern Alliance leaders such as the younger brother of late Ahmed Shah Masood, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Younas Qanoni at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul.
The leaders attended a ceremony for the inauguration of embassy’s new premises, in a move seen as an attempt by Islamabad to convey a message that it has no favorites in the war-torn country. “We want friendship with Afghan people, without any exception,” remarked Prime Minister Ashraf on the occasion.
British Prime Minister Cameron, who signed a deal with Karzai to fund a new Afghan military academy, said the Taliban could not wait out Nato forces.
He also urged Pakistan and Afghanistan to join forces in the fight against insurgents in both countries, warning they must be “together in one single fight.”
“The terrorists that are trying to wreck Afghanistan are by and large the same terrorists that are trying to wreck Pakistan.
This is one fight that we all need to be engaged in,” Cameron said. (With input from Reuters)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.