Pakistan and the United Kingdom have expressed hope that the deadlock in the Afghan peace process is temporary and that the Qatar initiative would resume soon to end the 12-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
Appearing at a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Wednesday, Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz reiterated that Pakistan and the UK were committed to peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Hague travelled to Islamabad amid an ongoing impasse over the Qatar process after the Afghan Taliban shut down their ‘political office’ in the Qatari capital of Doha. The Taliban representatives suspended talks with Washington when Qatar, under pressure from Kabul, disallowed them from hoisting the flag of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ atop their office.
During formal talks, Hague and Aziz discussed how to bring the Afghan Taliban back to the negotiating table.
“We hope the deadlock is temporary and not permanent.
We hope some kind of discussions will take place soon between the Taliban and the United States,” Aziz said when asked to comment about the prospects of the Qatar process.
Aziz also said that he would travel to Kabul on Saturday, adding that he would review the progress in the Afghan reconciliation process during his talks with Afghan authorities. Sources said his trip is expected to pave the way for the visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been tense over the past few months due to Kabul’s apprehensions that Islamabad is still playing a ‘double game’.
Without directly referring to the allegations of Afghan officials, Hague acknowledged that Pakistan was playing a ‘positive’ role in bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. “We discussed the Qatar process. And I welcome the support extended by Pakistan,” he added.
Altaf Hussain controversy
At the joint news conference Hague attempted to distance himself from the ongoing investigations against Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain. He insisted that the London Metropolitan Police was fiercely independent and the British government had nothing to do with its affairs.
The two sides also discussed bilateral relations, including a possible increase in trade volume.
Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan and the UK plan to raise their bilateral trade from $2.9 billion to $5 billion over the next three years. He thanked Britain for supporting Pakistan’s bid to gain access to European markets.
To another question, Hague dispelled the impression that the proposed immigration laws being enacted by the UK were meant for all Pakistanis. He made it clear that the immigration bond, which has not yet been approved, would only deal with ‘high-risk individuals’.
Meeting with interior minister
Hague also met Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to discuss progress on the Counter-Terrorism Associated Prosecutorial Reform Initiative and institutional support for the security apparatus.
Chaudhry Nisar asked for cooperation from the British government in improving the immigration system, checking on illegal immigrants and making Islamabad a model city. The British foreign secretary assured the minister of all possible assistance on controlling the issues faced by Pakistan, including terrorism, control of narcotics and institutional support for security agencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.