Kabul on Wednesday welcomed peace talks with the Taliban in Murree saying the process would end bloodshed and ensure durable peace in Afghanistan.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, while welcoming the start of formal talks as the first step towards achieving peace, is hopeful that the process would facilitate the way for achieving lasting and honourable peace in the country,” the Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement.
The National Unity Government praises the leadership of Pakistan for facilitating the first meeting and hosting the delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council, it stated. “We are hopeful that the cooperation would produce practical and concrete results so that both countries enjoy security and stability and are delivered from war.”
President Ashraf Ghani also hailed the talks in a statement. “The peace talks with the Taliban should be and will be Afghan led and Afghan owned,” says the statement published on the Presidential Palace website on Wednesday.
The Taliban, on the other hand, issued a vague statement apparently about the talks but did not mention Pakistan. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regularly undertakes and reforms in its organisational structure and officials’ capacities to further its political objectives. Such organisational reforms have been the norm in Islamic Emirate’s policies since the Islamic movement’s inception,” it read.
Some believe the first part of the Taliban statement shows the leadership may have temporarily empowered some leaders outside their political office to hold peace talks.
“On this basis, from now on all of Islamic Emirate’s foreign and internal political affairs are entrusted to the Islamic Emirate’s Political Office as their sole responsibility.
“The Political Office has full capacity and agency powers to conduct or postpone, in light of Islamic principles and national interests, negotiations with internal and foreign parties, wherever and whenever it deems suitable,” it further said.
Second part of the Taliban statement reiterates their longstanding stance that only the Qatar office has the right to pursue political affairs. The Taliban spokesman for the Qatar office Dr Muhammad Naeem distanced the Qatar office from the Pakistan talks.
Naeem told a pro-Taliban website nunn.asia that no member of the Political Office participated in the talks, rejecting reports that two Qatar-based leaders had attended the negotiations. A Taliban source told The Express Tribune that the Qatar office leader Qari Deen Muhammad has not attended the Pakistan talks.
The Express Tribune has learnt that the three Taliban leaders who attended the talks include Mullah Jalil, a former deputy foreign minister in the Taliban cabinet, Mullah Hasan, the former Kandahar governor and Mullah Abbas, the former Taliban health minister.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.