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Afghan govt’s representatives hold peace talks with Taliban in Pakistan

“Islamabad is not sincere with Afghanistan. Under the pretext of next round of peace talks, Pakistan wants to provide an opportunity to the Taliban to capture more areas and have good position in the reconciliation process,” says a member of the Wolei Jirga.

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) welcomed the direct talks between the government and the Taliban in Pakistan. The peace parleys between the government officials and representatives of the Taliban held in Murree city of Pakistan the other night.

The National Unity Government (NUG) informed of starting formal peace talks with the Taliban. The Afghan government urged Pakistan to play role as facilitator. In over the past one decade the High Peace Council has failed to kick start the reconciliation process with the insurgent group.

Ahmad Shakib Mustaghni, spokesman for the MoFA, told reporters on Wednesday that the government’s delegation in the talks was comprised of four officials, including the Deputy Foreign Minister, Hekmat Khalil Karzai.

He said that the one-day peace talks ended with both sides agreeing to meet after the holy month of Ramadan. However, he didn’t provide information about venue and structure of Afghan government’s delegation in the next session of peace talks.

“The Afghan government warmly welcomes the peace talks and calls it as a first step towards brining ever-lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan,” Mustaghni said.

He hoped that the peace negotiations will put an end to bloodshed and violence in Afghanistan. Hinting at presence of the Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, in Afghanistan, Mustaghni said that Afghan security forces are ready to fight against all terrorist groups who want to continue wars in the country.

The MoFA in a press statement said that the incumbent government appreciates Pakistan’s efforts in facilitating the direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Afghan government in the statement also commended the United States, China and other countries’ cooperation in this regard.

Qazi Amin Waqad, a senior member of the High Peace Council (HPC), expressed his pleasure over direct talks with the Taliban and said that they have spared no efforts to brining the Taliban to negotiation table. He hoped that the talks will brining lasting peace to Afghanistan and will put an end to violence in the war-hit country.

However, Dawood Kalakani, a parliamentarian from Kabul, casted doubt on Pakistan’s sincerity and said that the country is trying to kill time.

He said that even postponing the next session of negotiations with the Taliban is aimed at providing the Taliban militants with opportunity to capture more lands, in order to give them the upper hand in talks.  “Pakistan on one hand supports the peace and reconciliation process, while on the other it equips the Taliban with weapons and encourage them to conduct terrorist attacks in Afghanistan,” he added.

“President Ashraf Ghani in a meeting with political figures and media-men said that Afghan government will have the upper hand in the talks,” said a press release issued from his office.

President Ghani said that three points would be discussed in the primary round of peace talks: continuation of the process, building trust and preparing a list of important points for discussion.

The president stressed that the peace negotiations will be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. The president said that regional countries, international community and the Taliban have realized that defeating Afghan forces is not possible. “This gives Afghanistan the upper hand in the peace parleys,” he added.

“Amendments to the first and second chapters of the constitution will not be discussed,” President Ghani stressed, adding that the Durand Line issue will never be included in the agenda of peace negotiations.

After the media report emerged about beginning of peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban in Murree, the Taliban in a statement said that it has brought changes in duties and authorities of the Taliban leaders from time to time. “However, every decision regarding the Taliban movement will be taken by the Taliban’s political office in Qatar,” spokesman for the group, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement.

Entering into peace talks with the Taliban was a dream of the government and people of Afghanistan since long. However, due to lack of sincere cooperation from the peace and reconciliation process is yet to yield in expected outcomes. People of Afghanistan still doubt Pakistan’s sincerity. Thus, it is unclear that whether these talks will bring lasting peace to Afghanistan, or will once again face deadlock.

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