by Ali Hussain
ISLAMABAD: An Afghan delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai is in Islamabad to negotiate the prospects of a peace process in a war-torn Afghanistan directly with representatives of Afghan Taliban – an initiative jointly facilitated by Pakistan and China.
Well-placed sources privy to the development told Business Recorder that a nine-member Afghan government delegation is in capital for initial talks with the representatives of the Afghan Taliban with a view to negotiating of a formal and meaningful dialogue process for restoration of peace.
Some sources maintained that both the teams were in Islamabad since Monday and they will continue to hold talks Tuesday late night as well as Wednesday. But the foreign office remained tight-lipped about the details of meetings and arrival of the Afghan team. About the agenda, a source privy to the initial negotiations said both the sides were negotiating a possible cease-fire to prepare an environment for a meaningful dialogue process based on mutual trust.
“The Afghan government has also floated a proposal, which would further be negotiated, asking the Taliban to at least announce a ceasefire in non-combat zones – cities and towns – if they [Taliban] are not ready for a generalised cease-fire,” the source maintained.
The talks between Afghan government and Taliban are being held at a time when both Pakistan and Afghanistan summoned each other’s ambassadors following a cross-border attack at Angoor Adda.
However, the Taliban representatives including Qari Deen Mohammad and Sher Abbas Stanekzai were of the opinion that they can only be in a position to respond to the proposal after consulting the top Taliban leadership. Some sources further maintained that Mullah Khalil and Farhadullah are also part of the Taliban delegation. But Zafar Hashmi, deputy spokesperson for the office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, without disclosing any name, told media in Kabul that three Taliban leaders are taking part in talks.
The sources said the meetings in Islamabad are the follow-up of the recent talks held in Urumqi, China, about which Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has recently confirmed that Pakistan facilitated the talks in Urumqi.
According to sources, though several rounds of informal talks have taken place between the two sides in Pakistan, yet it is for the first time the delegations are directly sitting together for more ‘confidence building measures’.
Former governor of Nangarhar province and member of High Peace Council Haji Deen Mohammad and other senior officials as well as members of the Afghan High Peace Council are assisting the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai in talks.
Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah was not available for comments despite repeated telephone calls and text messages on his cell phone. However, he told his weekly press briefing last week that Pakistan is facilitating the peace process.
“We have said on a number of occasions that Pakistan has been facilitating the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, which is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. China also has interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan. We have been discussing with China ways to support the peace process in Afghanistan,” he said, adding Pakistan will continue to extend its support in this regard.
The talks between Afghan government and Taliban are being held at a time when both Pakistan and Afghanistan summoned each other’s ambassadors following a cross-border attack at Angoor Adda crossing point in South Waziristan and arrest of a Pakistani official of Consulate General in Kandahar.
Source: Business Recorder