Former Afghan prime minister and leader of Hezb-e-Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Monday arrived on a three-day visit to Pakistan to discuss the ongoing Afghan peace process.
Soon after his arrival in the capital Islamabad, Hekmatyar met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office.
Qureshi said Pakistan facilitated the process that led to the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar, and will continue its efforts to end the 19-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.
''Pakistan has always supported a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan,'' the Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying in a statement.
He underlined the importance of exercising vigilance and guarding against the role of "spoilers" both within and outside.
Hekmatyar will also meet President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, among other parliamentary leaders, besides delivering a talk at a policy think-tank.
This is the second high-level visit from Afghanistan in recent weeks. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghan High Peace Council, also visited Pakistan last month.
Experts see the development as Islamabad's policy to reach out to all Afghan leaders.
"More Afghan leaders are expected to visit Pakistan in the coming weeks," Tahir Khan, an Islamabad-based analyst told Anadolu Agency. "The Pakistani ambassador in Kabul also met former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and Jamiat-e-Islami leader Salahuddin Rabbani."
He said there is a strong possibility that Hekmatyar becomes a part of an interim set up after a Taliban-Kabul agreement on the political roadmap of Afghanistan.
"Hizb-e-Islami is not strong as it had been in the past but Hekmatyar is among the few influential and active Afghan political leaders," he said. "He cannot be ignored."
Hekmatyar led mujahideen fighters in the war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. He also served as prime minister in the 1990s.
After the ouster of Taliban regime in 2001, he fought against the US-led forces, but in 2016, signed a peace deal with President Ashraf Ghani, ending 20 years of exile and resistance. His party draws support from Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic group.
Afghan peace process
Islamabad's influence over the Taliban is viewed as crucial to court the warring militia.
In December 2018, Pakistan arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban, which led to a peace deal this February. Under the agreement, the US committed to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan by July 2021.
US President Donald Trump, however, has said that he wants to bring back troops from Afghanistan before Christmas.
In return, the insurgents pledged to prevent terrorist groups from using the Afghan soil for attacks, and promised to seek reconciliation with other Afghan groups through a dialogue process.
Intra-Afghan dialogue is currently in its initial stages, with both sides trying to evolve consensus on the agenda and rules of engagement.
Taliban have been urged to agree on a cease-fire, or reduce the continuing violence.