“Pakistani cleric Tahir Ashrafi had no option but to put his weight behind the Afghan peace process as the Taliban showed willingness to sit at the negotiations table in Kabul instead of a venue on foreign soil”
By Mansoor Faizy
KABUL: Afghan government and the Taliban should resolve their problems themselves while sitting at one table, the chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said.
In his interaction with a delegation comprising of Pashtun religious scholars, hailing from tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Ashrafi said that Pakistan can only pave way for the peace talks. “Pakistan has asked the government of Afghanistan and Taliban to resolve their problems themselves,” he said.
The regional countries would be in peace if the negotiations between the two parties reached toward a conclusive and successful end, he added. Ashrafi also lauded the recent development in Afghan-owned peace process.
Many in Afghanistan have taken the statement as positive shift in stance of the Pakistani Ulema who once called the Afghan insurgents their brothers. However, for some analysts who are taking the recent developments and changes in political arena as a chain are not really impressed from the statement.
His remarks surfaced in the media at a time when recently a delegation lead by high profile Taliban leader, Qari Din Mohammad, visited Pakistan and held talks with Pakistani officials far from eyes of media. Soon after his return to Qatar from Pakistan, Mohammad told media that he had fruitful meetings with Pakistan officials. He added that peace negotiations likely to be kicked off next week in Kabul. The statement was received with open arms in Afghanistan.
However, Ashrafi’s statement failed to attract attention of many. M. Nadeem Alizai, a political and military affairs analyst, termed the statement politically motivated rather than presenting the real ambitions of Pakistani clerics who are still backing the Taliban.
“Nevertheless, when Ashrafi learned that Taliban are ready to conduct peace talks in Kabul, he was left with no option but to come to the fore with such a statement,” he opined.
Unfortunately, Ashrafi is yet to realize that insurgents are not only targeting Afghans but Pakistanis are also in the crosshair of militants who rocked Peshawar and other cities with heavy explosions. Peshawar school carnage was the worst example of it, he pointed out.
To curb this menace in the region, the Afghan government is looking toward sincere cooperation of regional countries, especially Pakistan. Interestingly, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s National Security and External Relations Advisor, confirmed the recent secret negotiations between Afghan government and Taliban in Islamabad.
It’s worth mentioning that Ashrafi during President Hamid Karzai’s tenure had put his weight behind the Taliban and termed insurgency “jihad” in Afghanistan. Back in 2013, he said that Pakistani Ulema were in favor of targeting military bases of the US and NATO troops, stationed in Afghanistan.
His statement at that time infuriated Afghan religious scholars and asked Ashrafi to justify his statement on religious grounds. They termed Ashrafi’s statement “a bunch of rubbish” and said that carrying out terror attacks under any pretext is against the spirit and teachings of Islam.
With almost 14-year of war in the country, several report over readiness of the Taliban for peace talks with Kabul have been emerged, and now it is up to the government to bring it to a fruitful end.
Ahmad Siyar Sirat, an Afghan analyst, said the government is trying to bring peace and stability but some eternal elements were hampering the efforts.