October 22 ,2017 , 12:26 PM
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Diplomatic efforts stepped up to revive Pakistan-brokered Afghan talks
Muhammad Tahir


International and regional stakeholders are involved in diplomatic efforts to push for the revival of the Pakistan-brokered Afghan peace talks that faced a deadlock after the Taliban confirmed the death of their leader Mullah Omar in late July.

Time is ripe for an end to the impasse in the peace negotiations as the Taliban have now almost completed the transition and the new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is believed to have strengthened control over the group.

It was Mansoor who, with the approval of the powerful Leadership Council, had sent a team of senior Taliban leaders to attend the first round of talks, a senior Taliban leader privy to the internal discussions said. An eight-member delegation of senior Taliban leaders had arrived in Islamabad for the second round of talks on July 31, but negotiations were cancelled when Afghan intelligence revealed the death of Mullah Omar.

The first face-to-face talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in fourteen years were widely hailed across the world and all major players are now active in trying to get the process back on track.

These efforts have been stepped up at a time when the advent of winter could temper the Taliban attacks, creating a good opportunity to encourage political negotiations.

The recent visits to Islamabad by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, the U.S. and Chinese special envoys for the region were also seen as an integral part of these efforts as all threw their weight behind Pakistan's initiative to bring the Taliban to negotiation table.

Support for the Pakistani move is a strong indication that the international community is also keen for an early resumption of the stalled peace process in Afghanistan, which in many experts' view is the best course of action.

Pakistani civilian and military leaders have told the visiting foreign envoys that the country is ready to facilitate the next round of talks if the Afghan government and the Taliban are agreed on such a role.

"Pakistan would facilitate the resumption of the peace process, if approached by the Afghan government," Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, told the UN envoy for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, in Islamabad on Friday.

For his part, Haysom concurred that "intra-Afghan peace dialogue would require strong regional backing and expressed hope that Pakistan would continue to play its facilitative role," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

Just days ahead of the UNSG's representative's trip, the newly appointed Chinese envoy to Afghanistan, Deng Xijun, wrapped up his visit to Islamabad and Kabul where he reiterated his country's support for peace and security in both countries and the region.

Pakistan Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, was scheduled to open talks with senior U.S. political and military leaders in Washington on Monday with the revival of the stalled Afghan peace process on top of the agenda, security officials have said.

The military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, told reporters in Washington on Sunday that "Pakistan will continue supporting peace efforts in Afghanistan with utmost sincerity."

Stakeholders are now encouraging the National Unity Government in Afghanistan to come up with a strategy to end the deadlock in the peace talks with the Taliban.

Sections of the Afghan media earlier reported that the government has decided to appoint senior leader Younas Qanooni as the head of the High Peace Council that is mandated for talks with the armed opponents.

Although no official announcement has yet been made about Qanooni's nomination, it could be a major step towards the revival of the peace dialogue. The HPC has been without a permanent head since the induction of Salahuddin Rabbani into the cabinet as foreign minister in January. 

Friday, Nov 20, 2015 1:00 pm

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