FM Qureshi & Taliban discuss peace process in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: A delegation of Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani, called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi here on Tuesday to discuss Afghan peace process.
During the meeting, the delegation apprised the foreign minister of the situation regarding implementation of the agreement reached between the Taliban and the United States.
Views were also exchanged about the early start of intra-Afghan dialogue.
Meanwhile Arab News has reported that the head of the Afghan Taliban has finalised a 20-member negotiating team for upcoming talks between the Kabul government and the insurgent group, thirteen of whom are from the group’s existing leadership council, Taliban chief negotiator Sher Abbas Stanekzai said on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban have agreed that Doha will be the venue for the peace talks, known as the intra-Afghan dialogue, which will be the first high-level meeting between the two sides after nearly two decades of fighting.
“All decision-making powers are with the negotiations team, which has 65 percent representation from the ‘Rehbari Shoura’ [Taliban leadership council],” Stanekzai told Arab News via audio message from Doha, Qatar, where the insurgent group has had a political office since 2013. “They will take the process forward… and are now involved in internal consultation to chalk out a strategy.”
Stanekzai said Sheikh Hibatullah Akhunzada, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, would have the authority to devise the council’s strategy and sign agreements with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul.
The 20-member negotiation council includes several of Akhunzada’s close aides such as Sheikh Abdul Hakeem, Maulvi Abdul Kabeer, Maulvi Noor Mohammad Saqib, Mullah Shireen Noorzai, Sheikh Qasim Turkmen, and Abdul Manan Omari, who is the brother of Taliban founder Mullah Omar.
The crucial intra-Afghan talks are part of a historic peace deal signed between the Taliban and Washington in Doha earlier this year, which outlined a roadmap for withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan and peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban to end the 19-year war.
No date has been announced for the talks yet, but they were set to begin following the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government, a condition of the Doha deal. There was deadlock earlier over the release of 400 ‘hardcore’ Taliban prisoners, but Ghani announced on August 9 that he would free them “soon.”
“Kabul had agreed to release prisoners but later deviated from its commitment,” Stanekzai said. “We will not start intra-Afghan dialogue even if our one prisoner stays in jail. Every prisoner is a hero.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan is desirous of peaceful, prosperous and stable Afghanistan.
The foreign minister said this while talking to media persons after having a meeting with a delegation of Afghan Taliban.
The foreign minister said the meeting with Afghan delegation was constructive, friendly, positive and encouraging. He said the delegation has acknowledged Pakistan’s sincere efforts and appreciated the hospitality of the government of Pakistan in providing continued protection to the Afghan refugees.
He said peace and stability in the region will promote trade and generate employment opportunities.
Earlier, a Taliban Political Commission (TPC) delegation, headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, called on Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
During the meeting, views were exchanged on the current status of the Afghan peace process and the way forward.
Welcoming the delegation, Qureshi underscored Prime Minister Imran Khan’s consistent stance that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a political settlement is the only way forward.
Highlighting Pakistan’s positive contribution to the peace and reconciliation process, culminating in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020, the foreign minister underlined that this historic opportunity must be seized by the Afghan stakeholders to secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive negotiated political solution.
Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
The foreign minister emphasized the implementation of the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement, in its entirety, paving the way for the earliest possible commencement of Intra-Afghan negotiations.
The foreign minister also cautioned against ‘spoilers’ who did not wish to see return of peace in the region.
For its part, the foreign minister stressed, Pakistan will continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process for durable peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.
Foreign Minister Qureshi also highlighted the importance of Pakistan-Afghanistan ties based on amity, shared history and geography and reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding solidarity with the brotherly people of Afghanistan.
He urged the international community to enhance its engagement for reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan.
The foreign minister also underscored the need for creating economic opportunities and an environment conducive for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar thanked the foreign minister for the invitation and affirmed support for efforts for peace, security and development in Afghanistan.
The delegation also thanked the government and people of Pakistan for their consistent support to the people of Afghanistan, including for graciously hosting Afghan refugees for over four decades.
A Taliban Political Commission delegation led by Mullah Baradar had also visited Pakistan in October 2019 for wide-ranging consultations on the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. – TLTP

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