ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States agreed on Thursday that ultimately the intra-Afghan dialogue would be vital to agree upon the contours of a future Afghan polity where Afghanistan becomes a stable and prosperous country and at peace with its neighbours.
Pakistan insists that an intra-Afghan dialogue is crucial for success and sustainability of peace process in Afghanistan. With the arrival of US Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, speculations are rife that Pakistan has finally convinced the Afghan Taliban to sit in talks with the US envoy. Earlier last month, because of Pakistan’s efforts, Khalilzad had met with Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi, but upon the insistence of Washington to include the Kabul government in future talks, the Taliban cancelled all meetings.
Before leaving Kabul, Khalilzad told the media that talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war. This is the envoy’s fifth visit to Pakistan. The visit of the US envoy comes at a time when there are apprehensions in world capitals as US President Donald Trump has hinted that he is ready to withdraw at least half of US troops from Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad with an intra-agency delegation including senior US official Lisa Curtis and went into delegation level talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office.
“The two sides reviewed developments post Abu Dhabi, in order to take the Afghan peace process forward,” said the Foreign Office.
The US special representative was assisted by Departments of Defence, State and National Security Council. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was assisted by senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Ambassador Khalilzad briefed the Pakistan side on his recent engagements in the region. He lauded Pakistan’s efforts in facilitating direct talks between Taliban and the US in Abu Dhabi last month.
“The foreign secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate Afghan reconciliation process to realise the shared goal of peace and stability in the region. It was noted that taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility,” says the Foreign Office.
Just before the meeting at the Foreign Office, Afghan President telephoned Prime Minister Imran Khan who assured Afghan president that Pakistan was committed to its shared responsibility in negotiating a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan through an inclusive peace process. Ashraf Ghani had called Imran Khan to discuss the recent efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The president expressed his gratitude for Pakistan’s sincere facilitation of these efforts, initiated by Khalilzad. With reports saying that Pakistan was coming down hard on the Taliban and even arresting and later releasing some senior Taliban members like Hafez Mohibullah, spokesman at Foreign Office did not confirm. The spokesman said Pakistan has always maintained that the solution to the conflict in Afghanistan lies in an Afghan-led and Afghan owned peace process.
“In pursuance of that, we have facilitated direct talks between the US and the Taliban. We remain convinced that an intra-Afghan dialogue will lead to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. In our view, intra-Afghan dialogue is crucial for success and sustainability of peace process in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to support and facilitate Afghan peace process in good faith and as part of a shared responsibility,” the spokesman said.
Commenting on Chinese efforts towards reconciliation in Afghanistan, the spokesman said peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is a shared responsibility. “Pakistan is part of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-China Trilateral process. We have many commonalities amongst us as far as the ongoing peace efforts are concerned. Afghan peace process is a sensitive matter. Our position remains consistent that an intra-Afghan dialogue is the best way forward and that a political solution to the Afghan crisis is the only way forward,” he added.
Meanwhile, the spokesman confirmed that Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz is visiting Pakistan in February 2019.
“The dates of the visit are being worked out. Both sides are actively pursuing to finalise agreements/MoUs for signing during the upcoming visit of the Saudi crown prince,” he said.
Imran Khan will be leaving for Qatar on January 21 for a two day visit at the invitation of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
“During the visit, the prime minister will call on the emir and will hold a meeting with the prime minister of Qatar. Issues of mutual interest will be discussed during the visit. The prime minister will discuss the import of manpower by Qatar from Pakistan,” said the spokesman.