Pakistan to coax Afghan Taliban back into talks

Senior aide says earnest efforts being made by Islamabad


Kamran Yousaf August 02, 2015
Senior aide says earnest efforts being made by Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: A day after new Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor cast doubts on a fledgling peace process, a senior Pakistani official said Islamabad would try to persuade the new Taliban leadership to resume talks with the administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“There is no change in our policy. We are making sincere efforts to restart peace negotiations as soon as possible,” said the official who is familiar with the process. When asked, the official confirmed to The Express Tribune that Pakistan would continue encouraging all the parties, particularly the new Taliban leadership, to come to the negotiating table.

The second round of face-to-face talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, brokered by Pakistan, was postponed following confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death two years ago.

In his first audio message, Mullah Omar’s successor gave mixed signals on the peace process. While calling peace talks the enemy’s propaganda, Mullah Mansoor did not rule out negotiations along with ‘Jihad’ to achieve the group’s objectives.

The fate of the nascent peace process was discussed during Saturday’s meeting between US Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman and army chief General Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The US special envoy, who was originally in Pakistan to attend the second round of talks, hoped ‘with all sincerity’ that the talks would resume soon.

However, sources said it was highly unlikely. The fact that the Afghan Taliban are divided over Mullah Mansoor’s ascendency is one reason among many others which could delay the peace process. It is believed that certain Taliban leaders are opposing Mullah Mansoor’s election since he is seen to be close to Pakistan’s security establishment.

One source said Mullah Mansoor might not favour talks with Kabul anytime soon to dispel that impression. “He [Mullah Mansoor] will, in fact, first focus on creating unity among Taliban ranks,” the source added.

Former ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand is downbeat about the possibility of a peace deal in Afghanistan following the disclosure of Mullah Omar’s death. “The Murree process is dead now. In fact, it was a non-starter,” he said.

Mohmand added that reports of internal rifts on the issue of succession would not auger well for efforts seeking a political solution to the Afghan imbroglio.  “Divisions in Taliban ranks may benefit the Afghan government but not the Afghan state,” he said, pointing out that the Taliban infighting will lead to lawlessness in Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2015. 

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