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ED: Talks resumed with huge hopes

The US Special Envoy and Taliban negotiation team have resumed seventh round of peace talks in Doha, Qatar on Saturday with great hopes of an end to over four decades long hostilities and prolonged era of terror and violence, causing lives to millions of people and worth trillions of American dollars to both public and private infrastructure and properties. Before embarking on most important round of peace talks, the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted, “Based on my recent visits to Afghanistan and Qatar, I believe all sides want rapid progress.” Whereas Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman, said peace process was “progressing …steadily (and) gradually”. He believed the process could gain momentum, paving the way for the Afghans to sit together and chart a roadmap for a future system.” In the light of such remarks from both the sides, it seems that the seventh round of talks is taking place amid hopes for progress on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, a ceasefire and an intra-Afghan dialogue. Though outcomes of talks held in end of previous May remain disappointing as both the sides had failed to finalize the draft agreement, which will now be the main item on the agenda for the seventh round. And after the sixth round of talks, Khalilzad had said that merely holding meetings was not “sufficient when so much conflict rages and innocent people are dying”. But now not only the negotiators but even Afghans in general and other peace lovers in particular are attaching great hopes with the seventh round of talks. In one of his previous twitter post on 22th June, Zalmay Khalilzad said that “faster progress” is needed in negotiations and that the seventh round of US-Taliban talks will begin on June 29 in Doha. “I believe all sides want rapid progress.” The two sides are discussing the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, comprehensive ceasefire, intra-Afghan talks and counter-terrorism assurance. Despite some progress in previous talks at Doha, Khalilzad had shown his unhappiness over the progress, as he said that such trend of talks was not sufficient when so much conflict rages and innocent people were dying. The seventh round is following recently held developments in neighboring Pakistan whereas the newly introduced Lahore Process hosted Afghan Conference at Bhurban Murree and played a key role in hosting of President Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s two-days important visit to Pakistan. Engineer Gulbadin Hekmatyar, the key figure in Bhurban Conference had said, “I am defending Pakistan in Afghanistan,” whereas while delivering a presentation in Islamabad Strategic Studies and Research Center, President Ghani time and again insisted on “recognition of Afghanistan’s sovereignty.” Pakistan is a key factor in over four decades long conflict in Afghanistan, therefore, its motives behind the two developments in Islamabad couldn’t be underestimated at this crucial round commenced in Doha. Peace is a priority, and all efforts should be focused on pursing peace. All the Afghan masses, from leaders to ordinary, have pinned high hope on seventh round of talks. Rapid progress over peace deal and intra-Afghan talks with inclusion of government side, is expected this time. Peace is the first demand of the Afghan people, and US administration in particular and international community in general must understand that Afghans prefer peace over everything, including upcoming presidential election which brings nothing but more devastation and uncertainty.

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