Stung by the removal of the flag and plaque of the Islamic Emirate from their ‘political office’ in the Qatari capital of Doha, Taliban negotiators have stopped visiting the office, dashing hopes for an early resumption of the peace process, a Taliban official in Doha said on Monday.
Hours after President Hamid Karzai’s administration raised objections, Qatari officials removed the Taliban’s white flag and the plaque inscribed with ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ – a name the Taliban used for their regime before it was toppled by the United States in 2001.
Two spokesmen for the Taliban switched off their cellphones and stopped replying to emails. The militia’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, refused to offer any comments on the Qatar process when contacted by The Express Tribune.
President Karzai termed the style in which the Taliban office was inaugurated on June 18 in Doha as an attempt to install a parallel government. Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson Janan Mosazai said the Taliban office with the militia’s flag and plaque was contrary to the assurances given to the Karzai administration.
“The Afghan government’s claims are absurd as everything about the office had been agreed upon during months-long discussions with all sides involved,” the Taliban official, privy to the discussions, told The Express Tribune.
Though several Qatari officials were present at the inauguration along with the Taliban representatives, they are now mysteriously silent on the controversy.
The abrupt action by the Qatari government made the whole process doubtful as the Gulf state surrendered to pressure from the Karzai administration.
President Karzai, fearing that his administration might be sidelined in any Taliban-US agreement, refused to send members of his High Peace Council to Doha.
However, a senior member of the High Peace Council said there was no harm if the US and the Taliban hold direct talks at the initial stage.
“If the Taliban want to hold exploratory talks with the US on the issue of their prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, or to remove the names of their leaders from the UN sanction lists, they must be allowed to talk to the Americans,” Qazi Amin Waqad told The Express Tribune by telephone from Kabul.
“We are aware the US also wants to talk to the Taliban to secure the release of their prisoner with the Taliban. Therefore, they can begin talks as we cannot stop them but we also want the US not to be a hurdle in our contacts with the Taliban,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2013.
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