Politics, Asia - pacific

Pakistani FM to visit Afghanistan Saturday

Shah Mehmood Qureshi to participate in tripartite dialogue involving Islamabad, Beijing and Kabul on Afghan peace process

Pakistani FM to visit Afghanistan Saturday

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will meet top Afghan leadership, including President Ashraf Ghani, during his visit to Kabul on Thursday.

According to state-run Radio Pakistan, the two sides will discuss to spearhead a sluggish reconciliation process aimed at bringing a peaceful end to 17-year conflict in the war-torn country.

Qureshi will lead Pakistani delegation at a tripartite dialogue involving Islamabad, Beijing and Kabul on Afghan peace process .

He will also meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the dialogue.

His day-long visit -- second in last three months -- follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan and U.S. special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan earlier this month seeking Islamabad’s help to revive the long-stalled peace talks with warring Taliban.

“I am going to visit Kabul to hold talks with “Afghan leadership on political reconciliation and durable peace in Afghanistan,” Radio Pakistan quoted Qureshi as saying.

In a related development, Khan on Friday contended that Islamabad has “arranged” the rare direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban likely to be held on Dec. 17 in Doha, where the Taliban have a political office.

In October this year, a U.S. delegation led by Khalilzad, held the second round of direct talks with Taliban in Doha, bowing to a longtime demand by the warring militia.

“The U.S. that had long been asking us to do more is now seeking our help for talks with the Taliban”, Khan said at a ceremony in northwestern Peshawar city, which borders neighboring Afghanistan, local English daily Dawn reported. 

Peace talks

Pakistan had brokered the landmark first round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government, and the Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015, but the process broke down after Taliban announced the death of their long-term leader Mullah Omer, triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.

Chance for resumption of the stalled process went further dim following death of Omer’s successor, Mullah Mansur, in a U.S. drone strike last year on Pakistan’s side near Afghanistan border.

Since then, several attempts to resume the stalled peace process have been made by a four-nation group comprised of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the U.S. and China.

Until now, however, these attempts have failed to bear fruit except for a couple of rounds of direct talks between the U.S and the Taliban.

Taliban have opened new battle fronts across the war-torn nation in recent months as Afghan security forces -- suffering casualties and desertions -- struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.

Pakistan released two top Taliban commanders, including the former deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in October this year on the U.S. demand to help facilitate the Afghan peace process.

Meanwhile, Russia has been in contact with the Taliban, based on the moderate, political wing of the movement since 2007. The more Russia came at odds with the U.S., the more common cause it found with its opponents.

A recent fruit of this contact was the Taliban’s agreement to sit publicly with the Afghan government at the same table at the Nov. 9 Moscow conference on Afghanistan.

Russia hailed the second round of Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan as a “unique” public and open event of this kind. Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov characterized it as “a modest step towards full-fledged negotiations.”

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