ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban are apparently upset at the way some Afghan government leaders are dealing with the highly sensitive issue of the peace process.
Taliban have never officially confirmed of holding dialogue with the government, and insiders say they would not make any comments publicly unless “substantial progress is made” on the issue.
Further, the Taliban leadership is not in favour of the other side “playing politics” on this issue, a Taliban official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
The Taliban's reaction comes days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani avoided any direct comments on the status of the peace process and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah stated in a public event that peace talks could begin in the coming days. But the statements have not been received well by the Taliban, sources said Wednesday.
Dr Abdullah had told cabinet members that Afghan interests will be ensured in the dialogue process, and that the people will also be taken on-board on when the talks begin and how the dialogue proceeds.
This conflicting approach towards the peace process has created an impression that leaders of the National Unity Government are not on the same page, giving credence to the Taliban suspicion that there is no discussion among the leaders on the how to carry the reconciliation process forward.
Unsurprising then that a flurry of statements and diplomatic initiatives on part of stakeholders involved, has now been followed by a mysterious silence on all sides.
But sources close to the Taliban say the break in spell of diplomatic initiative is temporary because former Taliban leaders say a delegation has reportedly been formulated for the possible dialogue.
Akbar Agha, one of the founders of the Taliban, says they have selected seven negotiators from their Qatar-based representatives to attend peace negotiations with the Afghan government.
Agha, who currently does not have any official position in the Taliban cadre but has contacts with the group's leaders, told local Tolo TV in an interview that aired on Tuesday that the five recently released Guantanamo prisoners could possibly join the group of Taliban negotiators.
"The Taliban have allowed their representatives in Qatar to lead these [peace] talks, and the talks are expected to commence in the coming days," said Agha, who is a close relative of Tayyeb Agha, head of the Taliban political office in Qatar.
Syed Tayyab Agha and Mawlawi Shahabuddin Dilawar, who were the chief justice and the ambassador to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia under the Taliban regime; Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai and Qari Din Mohammad, are among the negotiators representing the Taliban.
On Tuesday, Afghan National Security Adviser, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who is in Qatar, met the country's prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa al Thani, the state’s Qatar News Agency reported.
Tolo TV reported that the main purpose of Atmar's visit was to hold a meeting with five Taliban members, who were released from Guantanamo Bay. However, the president Ghani's spokesperson in Kabul dispelled the impression that the visit had any links with the Taliban talks.
Taliban continue consultations
Despite their concerns about the peace process, Afghan Taliban leaders have continued consultations on finalising a possible list of their demands which will likely be presented to the Kabul administration if and when dialogue starts, a Taliban leader said Wednesday.
“Taliban’s central council has suggested seeking guarantees from major players who have suggested and offered mediation,” a Taliban leader privy to the Taliban internal debate told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
The group is also seeking proposals from its supporters to include in its list of possible demands.
“The Taliban could demand release of thousands of prisoners in Afghanistan’s jails,” a Taliban leader said. There are about 15,000 Taliban in Afghan jails.
“Some Taliban officials have suggested calling for permission of opening of political offices in few countries just like the Palestinian Hamas or Kurds,” he said.
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