ISLAMABAD: The second round of crucial talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives has been postponed following reports of the death of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar, the Foreign Office announced on Thursday.
“In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on July 31, is being postponed,” Qazi Khalilluah said in a statement.
Khalilullah said Pakistan and other friendly countries of Afghanistan hoped that the Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“It is further hoped that those forces, which due to their malafide intent wanted to undermine the peace talks, will not succeed in their designs,” he added.
Earlier, senior Afghan Taliban leaders arrived in Islamabad to take part in the second round of Pakistan-brokered peace talks, two Taliban sources told The Express Tribune.
“A six-member delegation arrived in Islamabad late Wednesday to attend the next round,” a Taliban official said. However, officials of the Kabul government are yet to arrive.
The second round of talks was scheduled to be held on July 31 in Pakistan. However, uncertainty clouded the fate of the talks following reports that the Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar was dead.
An Afghan government delegation was expected to arrive in Pakistan later today, Afghan sources said.
The delegation does not include those who attended the first round, according to the names provided to the correspondent.
Further, Afghan media reports quoted unmanned officials as saying a meeting is underway in the Foreign Ministry to decide a composition of the delegation.
Head of the Afghan government team, Haji Deen Muhammad, told The Express Tribune that no major change is expected in the team that took part in the first round; however, he did not ruleout inclusion of a woman in the team.
In Islamabad the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday Pakistan will facilitate the second round of talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban. However, Foreign Office Spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah did not say when the second round will take place.
“Let me reiterate that as far as Pakistan is concerned, we are committed to supporting and facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.”
“Pakistan has been facilitating an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Efforts are being made for facilitating the second round of peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government. However, I do not have details in this regard as of now,” he added.
Earlier today, the Taliban rejected reports of any fresh round of peace talks expected this week with the Afghan government, while making no comment on Kabul’s reported death of their leader Mullah Omar.
A statement from the Taliban leadership council says only the Qatar office is allowed to pursue political affairs.
“Media outlets are circulating reports that peace talks will take place very soon… either in the country of China or Pakistan,” the Taliban said in an English-language statement posted on their website.
“(Our) political office… are not aware of any such process.”
The statement marked the first comment from the group waging an almost 14-year insurgency in Afghanistan since Kabul on Wednesday reported that Mullah Omar died two years ago in Pakistan, citing “credible information”.
The insurgents have not officially confirmed the death of their spiritual leader, who has not been seen publicly since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban government in Kabul.
Rumours of Omar’s ill-health and even death have regularly surfaced in the past, but Wednesday’s claims from Kabul marked the first such confirmation from the Afghan government.