Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Kabul on Saturday to meet President Hamid Karzai and make efforts to revive Afghanistan’s faltering peace process.
The one-day visit, confirmed by Pakistan’s foreign ministry, comes a week after PM Nawaz met a delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council tasked with opening negotiations with Taliban insurgents as Nato forces withdraw from the country by end 2014.
Karzai is stalling signing a security pact with Washington that allows a contingent of US troops to stay on in Afghanistan, to carry out military training and counter-terror missions.
Support from Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan’s 1996-2001 Taliban regime, is seen as crucial to peace after Nato troops depart, but relations between the two nations have been uneasy.
Pakistan said it had released former Taliban number two Mullah Baradar – seen by Kabul as important person to bringing the militants to the negotiating table – to help the peace process. However, the militant complained he is still behind bars. There has been no confirmation that the High Peace Council was able to meet Baradar during its Pakistan visit last week.
It will be Nawaz Sharif’s first visit to Afghanistan since he took office in May for a third term as prime minister.
“He will meet President Karzai and discuss issues of mutual interest. Both the leaders will discuss the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan,” said Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, a foreign ministry spokesman.
The Taliban have refused to have direct contact with Karzai or with the High Peace Council, dismissing them as ‘puppets of the United States’.
A Taliban office in Qatar that opened in June was supposed to lead to talks but, instead, it enraged Karzai after it was styled ‘an embassy’ for a government-in-exile.
Hamid Karzai and Nawaz Sharif met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London last month in the fourth of a series of trilateral meetings designed to foster stability in the volatile South Asia region.
The meeting was considerably more low-key than one hosted by the British PM in February. It had ended with promise of a peace deal within six months.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.
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