Pakistan has invited key Afghan leaders from political groupings drawn from the former Northern Alliance to visit the country. These include Uzbek and Tajik political leaders.
Diplomatic and security officials told The Express Tribune on Sunday that a delegation comprising non-Pakhtun leaders, including Afghan National Front chief Ahmed Zia Massoud, might travel to Pakistan soon.
Afghan National Coalition’s Mohammad Yonus Qanooni and around a dozen other Uzbek and Tajik leaders from the northern parts of war-torn Afganistan will also be among those expected in Islamabad.
Officials said these leaders might accompany Salahuddin Rabbani, an ethinc Tajik and the head of the High Peace Council (HPC) that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had formed in 2010 to spearhead talks with Taliban insurgents.
Salahuddin, the son of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, stepped into his father’s shoes when a Taliban exploded a bomb hidden in his turban inside Kabul’s highly fortified diplomatic zone last year.
The invitation was accepted by Salahuddin earlier this month when Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf visited Kabul for a day to meet Karzai and other key leaders from all over Afghanistan, including those in the north.
No date has been finalised so far for the visit, although an official said Rabbani and his Tajik and Uzbek counterparts might be arriving here sometime around late August or early September.
Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul had already extended an invitation to the leaders from the north and modalities of their visit were being finalised.
The move came on the heels of a statement by top Pakistani diplomats that Islamabad did not have any favourites in Afghanistan and was willing to endorse the solution worked out by the HPC.
“We don’t want to be seen allied with any particular group in Afghanistan. We have an open policy,” Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told a parliamentary committee on national security last week.
A hint of what could be labelled as a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s policy was apparent when Pakistan Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman said in Washington this weekend that Islamabad’s decade-old dream of having a strategic depth in Afghanistan was no longer relevant. The possible visit comes as a departure from the policy Pakistan had in the past when it supported the Mujahideen against a Communist regime in the ‘80s and then the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in the mid-‘90s.
(Read: Engaging Afghanistan)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2012.