Islamabad to negotiate with Taliban

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad is ready to engage in negotiations with all militant groups that can help end the decade-long war in Afghanistan and restore peace in Pakistan, a senior official said on Thursday.

“We will accommodate any entity that will be helpful in making the [peace] process successful,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told reporters after attending a Senate defence committee meeting.

Jilani, accompanied by security officials, briefed the panel headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed about progress in the Afghan reconciliation process.

The foreign secretary pointed out that there was consensus between the civil and military leadership that Pakistan must continue positive engagement with Afghanistan.

The statement comes just a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai levelled fresh allegations claiming that Pakistan had either “killed or imprisoned” reconcilable members of the Afghan Taliban.

But the foreign secretary attempted to paint a rosy picture when asked about current relations between the two countries. He said the Afghan president had met the top leadership of Pakistan on 20 different occasions in 2012, adding that this year alone Karzai had held 12 meetings with the prime minister and president of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Senator Mushahid said the defense panel will travel to Kabul next month as part of ongoing efforts to seek a peaceful end to the long-running conflict, adding that no preconditions should be attached to negotiations with Taliban.

Awami National Party Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel stated that he was happy with the outcome of the in-camera meeting. He disclosed that the reconciliation process with different factions of the Taliban were under way.  However, it is not clear if any progress has been made in reaching out to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, as the militant group recently said it was suspending talks with the government.

At his weekly briefing, the newly appointed foreign ministry spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said a stable and peaceful Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan and the region.