In a bid to kick-start reconciliation with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will urge Pakistan to broker talks between the Taliban and the High Peace Council, as well as exhort Islamabad to release Taliban inmates.
During his last state visit to Pakistan and first meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today (Monday), the Afghan leader would focus on the need for Pakistan’s support to convince the Taliban to talk to Afghan officials directly if it really wants an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process, said Zardast Shams, the Afghan Embassy spokesperson in Islamabad.
“Location is not important but dialogue process between the Afghan Peace Council and the Taliban is much more important,” Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Umer Daudzai told The Express Tribune. “We say that if you can facilitate a contact between the Taliban and the United States, you can also facilitate a contact between the Afghan government and the Taliban. What we are demanding is a Pakistan-facilitated process that brings the Taliban to negotiating table with the Afghan High Peace Council.”
Afghan officials have announced the agenda set forth for his visit, but how contentious issues, such as the release of the insurgent leaders, will be dealt with is still unclear. Kabul wants certain Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s jail, including their former chief strategist Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to be freed to make them available for negotiations.
“We want all Afghans detained in Pakistan without any judicial orders and without committing any crimes set free, particularly those Taliban whose release can benefit the peace process,” Daudzai said.
Karzai also intends on discussing the participation of Pakistani religious scholars in a large gathering of Islamic scholars from the Muslim world to be held soon in Kabul, added Ambassador Daudzai, who was optimistic about the potential outcomes of the visit.
“While progress has been made in other areas, nothing concrete has been achieved toward establishing peace and security in Afghanistan. But now with a new government in Pakistan that has a clear majority and has vowed to improve ties with India, we can take steps to help bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.”
Officials from both the countries seem sanguine, as Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, talking to Afghanistan’s TOLOnews, termed Karzai’s trip a “historical event”.
It would surely help strengthen relations between the two countries, he said.
“Pakistan will honestly cooperate whether it is regarding the release of Taliban prisoners or holding a meeting of the clerics in Kabul,” Chadhary said. “Pakistan is committed to working sincerely to accelerate the stalled peace process.”
“The two leaders will have in-depth consultations on issues of common interest, including the situation in the region,” said Akhtar Munir, the Pakistan Embassy, Kabul, press attaché.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Zia Masoud, leader of the National Front Party (NFP), doubts the efficacy of the talks. “Pakistan follows its own strategic motives and the Taliban, as an ideological group, will never obey a president whose ideology is totally different than theirs,” he told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2013.