ISLAMABAD: After much commotion and clamour, the Qatar peace dialogue was abruptly stalled. Now, once again, hope for its revival has resurfaced. The Afghan High Peace Council anticipates that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s upcoming visit to Pakistan will mend fences.
The invitation by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was delivered through his adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz during his recent visit to Kabul. According to the presidential palace in Kabul, the invitation has been accepted, and the high level delegation that will visit Islamabad to discuss the fight against terrorism and the restoral of the peace process.
Why the stalemate
The current deadlock in the Qatar process comes after Afghanistan refused to join the talks in protest against the use of the Taliban flag and nameplate that read ‘Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’. It also considered the setting up of a Taliban office in Doha as a move to install a parallel government.
In response to the official government’s reservations, Qatari authorities lowered the Taliban’s white flag and removed the signboard.
As a consquence, the Taliban chose to abandon the new office.
Back on track?
According to sources, serious diplomatic efforts are, once again, under way to resume the Qatar dialogue. The recent visit to Kabul by Sartaj Aziz was apparently one such effort.
In this vein, Qazi Amin Waqad, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council, said Karzai’s proposed visit to Islamabad will be a great push to restore the process.
“Pakistan has now categorically declared that it is ready to cooperate in the peace process,” said Waqad, adding that Aziz’s visit and invitation to Karzai were major developments. “We are now sure that the process will be revived soon.”
According to Waqad, all eyes will now be on Karzai and his interactions in Islamabad.
“Sartaj Aziz had come to Kabul with a message that Pakistan will cooperate and will not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affair, in line with the policy of the new government in Islamabad,” he stated. “This approach is very helpful to push for peace.”
Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the foreign ministry spokesman, said on Thursday that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are already working on Karzai’s visit.
While sections of Afghan media reported on Saturday that the Taliban office in Qatar could be reopened within two weeks, Waqad said no time-frame could be given for this as yet. The Afghan government will hold talks with Qatari officials about the nature of the office and an understanding will hopefully be reached between the two governments.
According to Waqad, the office will not be reopened under the name ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, which is one that the Afghan government categorically rejects.
“The Taliban is a group of armed opponents of the government, not a [parallel government],” he said. “Talks will be held between the government and the group.”
Waqad, who himself is a former jihadi leader and was previously associated with the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said there is a chance that neither the Taliban flag, nor the Afghan flag, will be hoisted atop the office.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2013.