Visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday he was counting on Pakistan to help and provide either opportunities or a platform for negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and Taliban insurgents.
“We hope, with this on top of our agenda, that we can move forward in bringing stability and peace to both countries,” he told reporters at a joint news conference in Islamabad.
“It is with hope on this that I have come to Pakistan… to advance the course of action together… but also by having a common campaign against extremism, (to) make sure that the two countries are safer and prosperous towards a secure future.”
Karzai held his first talks with Prime Minister Sharif since the latter took office. In their one-on-one meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a detailed discussion on the release of Taliban prisoners in which Afghan terms and conditions were acutely viewed, officials told The Express Tribune.
He also assured the Afghan president of Pakistan’s all-out support in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, officials added.
In the joint press conference after their meeting, Sharif wished Afghanistan well in the transition from Nato to Afghan security control and reiterated the country’s support for peace and reconciliation to be “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led”.
“I assured President Karzai that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitation to the international community’s efforts for the realisation of this noble goal,” he said. The premier said it is imperative to turn the tide of conflict in the region and work collectively for the common welfare of the people. “Afghanistan is not only a close neighbour but also a fraternal nation with which the people of Pakistan are bound by unbreakable ties of faith, kinship and shared history. Our security and future prosperity is linked to that of Afghanistan, in multiple ways.”
He stressed on how important “a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan” is to Pakistan.
He told the media that the two countries had decided to work closely to reinforce trade, energy and communications links through trans-regional initiatives to enhance connectivity and regional economic cooperation.
“I have no doubt that President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan will help our two countries advance the shared objectives of peace, progress and prosperity in the region and beyond,” the prime minister concluded.
However, no mention was made about the release of Taliban prisoners in the short statements made by Prime Minister Sharif and Karzai, and questions were not allowed. The release of prisoners is an integral part of Karzai’s agenda, which members of the High Peace Council – the Afghan government peace negotiators – believe would encourage the Taliban to participate in talks. The council, who are accompanying Karzai in Islamabad, call for the release of former deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, the most senior Taliban member detained in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, on direct talks, a security official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan cannot force anyone to talk to the Afghan government, especially when the Taliban had previously refused to talk Karzai.
Karzai meets Zardari
President Asif Ali Zardari also met his visiting Afghan counterpart at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, after which he said that Pakistan has been consistently extending every possible support for the promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The two leaders discussed matters pertaining to bilateral ties, the evolving regional situation and the Afghan peace process, said President Zardari’s spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar.
President Zardari emphasised on the optimum utilisation of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) and its extension to Central Asia for promoting trade and economic activities in the region.
He said the early implementation of APTTA would also help facilitate Afghanistan’s access to foreign markets through Pakistani seaports and land routes.
Meeting other leaders
President Karzai also met with Pakhtun leaders, Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai on Monday night and discussed the Afghan peace process. According to officials, former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao also met Karzai.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2013.