Pakistan on Thursday said it is optimistic that the stalled Afghan peace process will be revived soon as differences between key stakeholders narrow down over the Afghan Taliban’s office in Doha.
At his weekly news briefing, Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told reporters on Thursday that reconciliation between Kabul and the Taliban was the most effective way to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“It was in the same spirit that Pakistan supported the establishment of the Doha office,” Chaudhry added.
The peace process, which led to the opening of the Afghan Taliban’s office in the Qatari capital of Doha, was meant to provide a first official platform for direct negotiations between the militant group, United States and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration.
However, the Taliban temporarily shut down the office in protest after Karzai objected to their raising a flag and giving it a nameplate that suggested they wanted to set up a government-in-exile.
Recently, a senior aide to Karzai claimed that the Doha office was a plot to break up Afghanistan orchestrated by Pakistan and the US.
Responding to the allegations, the FO spokesman said Pakistan exercised utmost restraint and would continue to do so in the future.
“We believe that allegations and counter allegations will not help us achieve our shared goal of securing peace and stability in Afghanistan and our region,” he emphasised.
“We have taken a positive and constructive approach. We believe that close engagement between Pakistan and the Afghan government could help achieve the objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Chaudhry said.
He said recent talks between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan authorities were held in a ‘cordial atmosphere.’
The spokesman maintained that the Afghan president accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan.
“The dates are now being worked out. The two governments are presently engaged in preparing for that visit.”
When asked about the reported preconditions attached by Karzai to visit Islamabad, he replied, “It is our hope that Pakistan and Afghanistan will work together on an agenda that leads us to lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.”
He added that the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan was on the cards. However, he would not give exact details, citing security reasons.
No US proposal on Aafia’s release
Chaudhry also denied reports that Pakistan and the US were considering any proposal to repatriate Dr Afia Siddiqui in return for the release of Dr Shakeel Afridi, who allegedly worked for the CIA to track down slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
He said that Pakistan has already expressed its concern over the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir especially due to the desecration of the Holy Quran.
He said the movement of Kashmiris in Indian-administered Kashmir for their right for self-determination was indigenous and it could not be stopped with force.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.