ISLAMABAD: The top leadership of the Afghan Taliban has approved ‘preliminary peace talks’ with Kabul, a former top commander of the group who is privy to the development told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
“Taliban officials, who had been involved in talks with the Pakistanis and the Chinese, and had sought time for consultations with the senior leaders, have received a green signal from the leadership,” he said on the condition of anonymity. He confirmed that “Pakistani officials had advised Taliban leaders to sit face-to-face with the Afghan government and put their demands to find out a political solution to the problem.”
Some leaders affiliated with the Taliban political office in Doha are expected to visit Pakistan soon for discussions to explore ways for the proposed peace dialogue, another Taliban leader said on Sunday.
“A small delegation will be visiting Pakistan in days for consultations,” he said.
He added that the delegation will also discuss the reopening of the Doha office, which was closed just days after opening in 2013 after Afghanistan’s then president Hamid Karzai rejected the Taliban’s move to display a plaque reading ‘The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ at the facility.
Although the office in Doha is still closed, Taliban sources said the group’s negotiators have remained in Qatar. Some more negotiators are likely to join them once the dialogue process begins, they added.
Meanwhile, the Taliban leader said senior representatives Qari Din Muhammad and Abbas Stanakzai will be part of the team visiting Pakistan.
According to Taliban sources, Qari Din had led a delegation of the group in meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing in November. Qari Din also held follow up discussions with Chinese diplomats in Beijing and recently visited Pakistan in connection with the proposed talks as well, they said.
Some former Taliban leaders have warned that the Afghan government should not be bypassed in any proposed dialogue as such moves had failed in the past. “Kabul must be completely involved in any process and the talks should be held in Qatar and not in any other country,” former senior Taliban leader Akbar Agha told The Express Tribune from the Afghan capital.
Agha, who is one of the founders of the Taliban movement, said that the withdrawal of all foreign troops should top the talks’ agenda as “there would be no peace until all foreign forces quit Afghanistan.”
Senior Afghan government officials are optimistic about the peace process after Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif assured President Ashraf Ghani that Islamabad will cooperate with Kabul in the reconciliation process.
President Ghani’s adviser for reforms and good governance, Ahmad Zia Masood expressed the hope that peace talks with Taliban would yield positive results.
“We have received positive messages regarding the peace process from various sources,” he told reporters in Kabul. “I hope durable peace will be established soon throughout the country,” Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news agency quoted Masood as saying on Sunday.
A day earlier, at a news conference alongside the US defence secretary, President Ghani had said that “Ground has been paved for result-oriented peace talks, which are in the interests of Afghans.”
A statement issued by the Afghan Presidential Palace also said President Ghani has appreciated Pakistan’s recent efforts in paving the ground for peace and reconciliation. “We welcome the recent position Islamabad has taken in pronouncing Afghanistan’s enemy as Pakistan’s enemy,” the statement added.
Taliban could face opposition
Taliban leaders could face some resistance from hardliners who are not in favour of dialogue, sources in the group said. According to them, the leadership would find it difficult to convince those fighting in the battlefield.
Some Taliban leaders parted ways with the movement when the Doha office opened and formed the Fidaye Mahaz and the Dadullah Mahaz splinter groups.
Dadullah Mahaz is being led by Mansoor Dadullah, the brother of Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the former Taliban military chief who was killed in 2007 by British and US forces.
Mansoor Dadullah, who considers himself as part of the Taliban movement, has opposed any peace talks on previous occasions.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2015.
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