- PM’s Adviser Sartaj Aziz says threat of use of military action against Afghan Taliban outfits will cause hindrances and cannot proceed the offer of talks to all groups
- Says distinction should be made between reconcilable and irreconcilable groups and how to deal with the irreconcilable outfits once all avenues of bringing them to talks table have been exhausted
The first sitting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Process on Monday unanimously adopted the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the formal launch of direct dialogue between Afghan Taliban groups and the Afghan government, as Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz stressed the need of not attaching strings to the process.
Representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States met here for a day-long brainstorming session.
The delegations were led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Olson and China’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun.
An informed source told Pakistan Today that during the session, Pakistan urged the three countries to come up with their recommendations in the upcoming session due to be held in Kabul on January 18 so that a package could be offered to the insurgents to lure them towards the negotiating table.
“Since the Taliban are gaining ground with each passing day, there needs to be a package worked out by the four partners. The Afghan government would have to come up with an offer as to how many seats in the parliament as well as in the cabinet could be offered to the Taliban. Moreover, the US needs to lift sanctions and come up with a clear deadline to pull out troops from Afghan soil. China would be offering a lucrative economic package,” the source said.
However the official added that all parties would have to come up with a workable strategy in the next session “because without it the talks would fail to achieve the objectives”.
At the onset of the meeting, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz asked the participants not to attach strings to the dialogue process.
“It is important that no preconditions are attached to the reconciliation process, as it will create difficulties in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table,” Aziz said, as he penned down four elements essential in the reconciliation process with Afghanistan.
“Proper sequencing is required in the negotiating process,” he said, while adding that “threat of use of military action against the group will cause hindrances and cannot proceed the offer of talks to all groups.”
“Distinction between reconcilable and irreconcilable rules and how to deal with the irreconcilable can follow once all avenues of bringing them to the table have been exhausted,” Aziz said.
The premier’s senior aide added, “Certain confidence building measures can play a key role in encouraging Taliban to join the negotiating process.”
Expressing confidence that the meeting will evolve as an efficient, procedural framework to provide the basis for smooth functioning of the group, the adviser said the course of action should be realistic and flexible. “Unrealistic targets and deadlines must be avoided.”
“Keeping in mind the group’s sensitive nature of work and acknowledging the importance of positive public messaging, Pakistan should keep Taliban talks away from media as much as possible,” Aziz said.
He said the gathering needs “to define the overall direction of the reconciliation process” and define goals “with a view to creating a conducive environment for holding direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban groups.”
An Afghan delegate told Pakistan Today that they were “shocked” by Aziz’s statement calling for no military action against the “irreconcilable groups” in Afghanistan.
“The statement conflicts with Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s assurance to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan and Afghanistan would jointly fight militant outfits not keen to join the peace talks,” said the delegate.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the Group reiterated the commitment of their countries to the realisation of objectives expressed in their statement from the quadrilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad on 9 December 2015.
Building on the outcome of December 9 trilateral and quadrilateral meetings, they considered mutual efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process with a view to achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
All four countries underscored the importance of bringing an end to the conflict in Afghanistan that continues to inflict senseless violence on the Afghan people and also breeds insecurity throughout the region. The participants emphasized the immediate need for direct talks between representatives of the government of Afghanistan and representatives from Taliban groups in a peace process that aims to preserve Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The discussions focused on undertaking a clear and realistic assessment of the opportunities for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, anticipated obstacles and measures that would help create conducive environment for peace talks with the shared goal of reducing violence and establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The meeting adopted the terms for the work of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group and agreed to continue regular meetings to advance the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The group would hold discussions on a roadmap at its next meeting to be held on 18th January 2016 in Kabul.
TALIBAN OUTFIT READY FOR TALKS:
Meanwhile, a breakaway Taliban group said it was ready for talks.
The faction, which emerged following the revelation last year that Mullah Omar had died two years ago, is believed to be relatively small and its absence from the battlefield is unlikely to be a game changer.