Afghan peace talks in Pakistan

Author: Waris Sabah

In the past several years, there have been numerous informal peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives, but this week on Tuesday’s first ever officially acknowledged meeting was hosted by Pakistan as a process of ending more than 13 year of conflict in the war-ravaged country.

Pakistani officials have confirmed that Tuesday night meeting was Afghan-led reconciliation process which was held at a hilltop resort in Murree, an hour drive from the capital Islamabad, and representative of United States and China also took part in the discussion. “The participants agreed to continue talks to create an environment conducive for peace and reconciliation process,” the Pakistani government said in a statement Wednesday. The peace talks will resume through series of meetings adding that the next meeting will be held after the month of Ramadan at mutually convenient date and place. A statement by the Pakistani foreign ministry said both sides “were duly mandated by their respective leadership and expressed their collective desire to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region”.

Deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan Hekmat Karzai who is also a nephew of former Afghan president is heading the Afghan government delegation that includes Haji Din Mohamad aide of president Ghani as well as Mohammad Natiqi aide of Chief Executive Abdullah. On the other hand Mullah Abbas Durrani is leading the Taliban delegates. Pakistani delegation is led by foreign secretary Chaudhry.

Peace-Talks in the Past

In the past, Face-to-face dialogues have been refused by Taliban with Karzai government what they used to call “puppet” of United States.

Since his time in the office President Ghani has taken the lead to reboot the relationship with Pakistan by asking to help delivering the Afghan Taliban to the table for discussion and negotiation. As a result, he has been strongly criticized from some Afghan politicians, including Hamid Karzai former President, who frequently accused Pakistan for insurgency in Afghanistan.

The incumbent president of Afghanistan has been anxiously trying to secure the ceasefire with the Taliban. So far different informal meetings have been arranged between the Afghan officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar, Oslo, Dubai and in late May two-day meeting was secretly held in Chinese city of Urumqi which was also facilitated by Pakistan.

US, China and Pakistan Role

The participation of US and Chinese diplomats highlights the influential consensus of international community over the necessity for a political deal in Afghanistan. China is concerned about the Islamist extremisms in Afghanistan and Pakistan spreading over to Muslims majority western province of Xinjiang.

As NATO and U.S. troops are withdrawing the insurgent groups continue to rise in different parts of Afghanistan, recently carrying attack on the national parliament. US combat mission is ended by the ended of December 2014, the remaining thousands of US and NATO troops will only support and train the Afghan forces. US is concerned about country’s ability in the long-term to sustain billions of dollars required to support the Afghan security forces to cope with enraged Taliban-led insurgency. White House spokesman Josh Earnest welcomed the Tuesday meeting as an “an important step toward advancing prospects for a credible peace”.

Pakistan can play a vital role in any peace process, which majority Afghan officials believe remains knitted to policy of supporting the Taliban to carrying out operations to destabilize the wearisome neighbor. After the December 2014, school attack by Taliban slaying more than hundred of innocent children Pakistan now insists its commitment to peace. On a visit to Kabul in May, Prime minister Nawaz Sharif, assured Ghani that “the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be friends of Pakistan”.

A Starting Point?

Previous meetings between the Afghan officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar have failed to bear fruitful outcome, some analysts still believe that Murree deal may not put an end to the bloodshed in Afghanistan as the movement is split, with the Islamic State recruiting defector from Taliban and other militant groups.

Taliban have been fighting Afghan government from the past 13 years so the process of peace talk is not simple that one can expect overnight breakthroughs and jump to the conclusion, rather it will be complicated and long process. Peace cannot prevail all the sudden, it requires years of struggle, so lets hope the Tuesday peace talk can be starting point for the process in order to prevent further destruction and bloodshed of more innocent people.