Afghan-Taliban dialogue – Peacemakers head for crucial talks | Pakistan Today

Afghan-Taliban dialogue – Peacemakers head for crucial talks

ISLAMABAD – In a major development in the Afghan peace process, Pakistan’s top political and military leadership will hold an important meeting with President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders in Kabul today (Saturday) to pave the way for a conclusive dialogue between the Karzai government and the Taliban, with Islamabad also playing the central role of facilitator.
In an unprecedented move, Pakistan’s top political and military leadership will be present in Kabul today with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha holding talks at various levels.
It is not only the formation of Pakistan’s delegation that is unique but also the timing of the visit is highly significant, with Islamabad engaged on one hand in crucial talks with Washington to repair the ties damaged by the capture and detention of CIA operative Raymond Davis, and the Karzai government struggling to keep its relations with the Obama administration on the right track.
The message that Pakistan intends to deliver through visit of the delegation is that its entire leadership is supporting the Afghan reconciliation process involving Karzai government and the Taliban. British Prime Minister David Cameron also made a phone call to his Pakistani counterpart a day before his visit to Kabul and discussed the reconciliation process with him, as well as the role that the UK could play for its success.
Official circles in Islamabad attach great significance to the fast-paced developments of the last few days vis-a-vis the Afghanistan peace process, including another significant visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Turkey recently in which he discussed at length the dialogue between the Karzai government and the Taliban with Turkish leaders, and the opening of a Taliban office in Turkey for which Ankara has now given its consent.
“Right from the United States to the Taliban, all stakeholders have agreed that Turkey could play a significant role in Afghanistan peace process owing to its important position in the Muslim world as well as its close ties with Western nations, and this is why it has been decided that a fresh round of US-backed secret talks between the Karzai government and Taliban will be held next month on Turkish soil,” said a diplomat here requesting anonymity.
He said that the Pakistani leaders would not only discuss the talks between the Karzai administration and the Taliban in their visit to Kabul but also deliberate there on ways to improve ties with Washington that recently came under strain. Another Pakistani official told Pakistan Today that Pakistani leaders would also discuss with the Afghan authorities issues related to the Pak-Afghan joint commission formed in January to work out modalities of supporting negotiations with the Taliban.
“The commission headed by the Pakistani and Afghan foreign ministers, also comprising top military and intelligence officials from both countries, has not yet met owing to tensions between Islamabad and Washington,” he said. He said that Islamabad and Kabul knew very well that the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan could not achieve the desired results until the Americans were on the same page and for that they would endeavour to improve ties with the US and persuade it to come out in the open and fully support dialogue with the Taliban.
He said that Gilani and Karzai would also try to evolve a joint strategy for the trilateral meeting of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US on Afghanistan. The talks supposed to be held earlier in Washington were delayed because of the tensions between Islamabad and Washington. Importantly, General Kayani also had a meeting with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cabinet in Peshawar on Thursday in which he sought their input on relations with Kabul, especially Islamabad’s supportive role in ensuring peace in Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Ahmed Mukthar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Foreign Secretary Suleman Bashir would also be part of the Pakistani delegation.

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