ISLAMABAD: Afghan government-backed peace negotiators have extended their stay in Islamabad for a meeting with senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The visit comes after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had accepted a proposal by Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the trilateral summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron in London last month to allow members of the High Peace Council to meet Baradar.
The delegation, led by chairman of the Afghan High Council, Syed Salahuddin Rabbani, arrived in Islamabad in a special plane on Tuesday, sources with knowledge of the visit disclosed on Wednesday. The delegation also includes secretary to the peace council Masoom Stanakzai and two officials of the council’s secretariat, sources added.
“The delegation was scheduled to depart for Kabul on Wednesday afternoon, however the visit was extended to another day and will now leave on Thursday,” diplomatic sources added.
“The visit was extended for more meetings,” sources said.
While Pakistani official sources confirmed the visit, they did not provide any further details.
Prior to visiting Pakistan, the High Peace Council met in Kabul on Saturday and discussed the agenda for the visit to Pakistan, a member of the council had earlier told The Express Tribune by phone from Kabul.
“The meeting decided to travel [the negotiators] to Pakistan this month with a broader peace agenda,” the council member said. He said the council’s members were agreed that the visit should not be limited only to a meeting with the Taliban leader.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry had been insisting that Kabul has not yet officially contacted Islamabad for the peace council’s visit.
The visit comes a day after reports emerged that the Afghan and US government had agreed to the draft of a pact which will allow some US troops to remain in Afghanistan after Nato forces pull out in 2014. The Taliban have already rejected any pact that allows US troops to stay on in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Afghan Taliban wary of outcome
Taliban have slammed what they called “coercive tactics” to force a detainee for meeting with the “enemies” against his will.
Afghan Taliban say no “prisoner” can represent them and all such attempts will yield no results. However Afghan government believes that Mullah Baradar enjoys huge respect among the Taliban and he could play effective role in the peace process.
It was not clear whether the negotiators met Mullah Baradar, who has remained under virtual house arrest since officials in Islamabad announced his release in September.
The Taliban and Baradar’s family insist that he had never been allowed to rejoin family.
“Mullah Baradar had refused when he was asked several times during his detention,” a Taliban official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. He said there are possibilities that Baradar could be forced to meet the Afghan delegation but the ‘mastermind of such meeting’ will be disappointed to expect anything.
Pakistan had agreed to free Mullah Baradar during President Karzai’s visit to Islamabad in August.
Karzai had welcomed Baradar’s release and insisted for complete freedom for him to allow him direct access to the peace council.
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