Influential Afghan Taliban leader Agha Mutasim Jan dropped a clear hint on Thursday that he would join the recently launched peace talks, citing the participation of all key internal and external stakeholders in the negotiations.
“I fully support the intra-Afghan dialogue. This is a good beginning and there is a strong possibility that we all join the process,” he told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.
Mutasim, a close confidant of the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, said he sees the face-to-face talks held on July 7 between the representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government as a “unique peace process” as it featured all important internal and external stakeholders. He had served as finance minister during the Taliban government, between 1996 and 2001, and the powerful Taliban commission.
Pakistan brokered the first ever direct peace talks in Murree that has received a major boost when Mullah Omar accorded approval to the “legitimate” process in his “Eid” message.
Read: Much-needed blessings: Mullah Omar endorses Taliban peace talks
Unidentified gunmen had shot and critically injured Mutasim in Karachi in 2010 apparently because of his quest for a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem. After initial treatment in the port city he moved to Turkey for further medical assistance and later started his own political process mainly focusing on peaceful solution to the Afghan problem.
“The talks are very significant as all important internal sides [the Taliban and the Afghan government] as well as the major key players [Pakistan, US and China] took part in the Murree talks,” the Taliban leader said. He, however, underscored the need for Afghans to own the process.
This week, Foreign Affairs Adviser to the prime minister, Sartaj Aziz, told The Express Tribune that he is confident more people will join the talks.
Mullah Omar’s endorsement of the talks could put to rest some doubts about the talks as the Taliban negotiators in Qatar insist they are empowered to pursue political affairs that include peace negotiations.
The Taliban supremo reiterated the role of the Qatar office but did not stop or discourage other leaders from taking part in the peace process.
The Murree talks were significant as a senior member of the Taliban central “Leadership Council,” Abdul Latif Mansoor, attended the talks. Mansoor is the secretary of the council, according to Taliban leaders.
Ibrahim Haqqani, the brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani network, was the third Taliban negotiator at the Murree talks.
Read: Pakistan helped secure Taliban talks, but Afghan mistrust lingers
“The three leaders are considered very important within the Taliban leadership ranks and have an important role to play. The participation of Abdul Latif Mansoor is a strong indication that the Taliban leadership council is directly involved in the process,” Mutasim said. The Murree process is more important than any previous talks, he added.
The Taliban leader called for a ceasefire that would be a major confidence building measure to push the fragile process forward, adding that cessation of violence would also boost the trust of people in the reconciliation process.
Hardliners slam Murree talks
However, a splinter group within the Taliban has condemned the peace process and said the group’s leaders have “deviated” from their longstanding stance of not holding talks with the Kabul administration and in the presence of foreign forces.
“The secret talks have increased suspicions among the Mujahideen as they are concerned that their sacrifices are being sold out,” the Fidai Mahaz group said.
A former Taliban commander, Omar Khetab, had launched the group after the Taliban opened a political office in Qatar in 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2015.