Pakistan is considering transfer of senior Taliban cadres – including the group’s former second-in-command – to the Gulf state of Qatar as part of efforts to facilitate the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar travelled to Doha on Sunday and met senior Qatari leaders to work out a new mechanism under which Taliban detainees would be released in the future, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Pakistan has released over two dozen Taliban cadres at the request of the Afghan High Peace Council – but the move has not produced the desired results due to the absence of better coordination among the stakeholders. Now, efforts are being made to evolve a new mechanism under which future releases would be made.
One of the proposals on the table envisages that Pakistan hand over senior Taliban commanders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to Qatar, where the Afghan Taliban are allowed to set up a ‘political office’.
A Foreign Office official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Pakistan was willing to give serious thought to the idea in a bid to facilitate peace talks in Afghanistan.
But Islamabad insists the Qatar initiative should have a broad-based agenda inviting all Afghan insurgent groups, including the Haqqani network, to the negotiating table.
A statement issued by the foreign ministry said Khar in her meetings with the Qatari emir and prime minister said only an ‘all-inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue’ would ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan on a sustainable basis.
She held formal talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani in Doha. Khar also called on Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.
Khar told the Qatari premier that Pakistan fully supported the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. She briefed him about various steps Pakistan has taken to facilitate the process.
Premier al Thani said there was a strategic convergence of views between Pakistan and Qatar on various regional and international issues, including peace and stability in Afghanistan.
According to the statement, he appreciated the role Pakistan was playing to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process.
Khar also discussed bilateral ties between Qatar and Pakistan. She underlined the need to build mutually beneficial economic and trade relations between the two countries and invited Qatar’s investment in the energy, infrastructure and agriculture sectors.
The foreign minister urged the Qatari government to hire more Pakistani workers saying that the 90,000-strong Pakistani community was playing an important role in the development of the fast-growing state of Qatar.
Khar also held a detailed meeting with the minister for energy and industry, Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al Sada and discussed various projects with a view to enhancing cooperation in the energy sector.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2013.