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Editorial: Facilitators with spoilers’ potential

Now that the intra-Afghan peace talks have finally got off to a start in Doha, the role and support of regional countries and other key stakeholders are of immense importance. The crucial stage in the peace process has only begun now and is therefore vulnerable to go astray if any of the influential stakeholders don’t act as expected of them. One of these stakeholders is the neighboring country Pakistan, a country that for decades denied giving sanctuary to the Taliban but is now ready to embrace the fact it was actually supporting the insurgents. In a recent controversial statement by Asif Khwaja – Pakistan’s former cabinet minister – he brazenly commented on a joint picture of Taliban Chief Negotiator Mullah Baradar with US Secretary Mike Pompeo and thus, in a manner, announced support to the Taliban by saying that if the US had power, they had God. Interestingly, this comes as Mullah Bardar was put into solitary confinement and tortured by Pakistan for about 10 years. Besides, the irony of the remark is that Mullah Baradar was captured supposedly on the charges of willing to talk peace with the then Afghan government. These remarks only reiterate Pakistan’s hypocrite stance toward Afghanistan. Now that there is a chance to claim credit and use the Taliban for its own interests, the country‘s denial is gone and it’s accepting to have been, in a manner, behind Afghanistan’s decades-long miseries. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military establishment has also admitted that it owned the Taliban, as narrated by 1st VP Amrullah Saleh. Considering the remarks of the country’s prime and foreign ministers, they give proper lip-service to the Afghans’ efforts for peace as they claim to have fulfilled their commitment in terms of bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. They now put the onus on the negotiating sides to make peace but lest they forget that Afghans have realized how they are capable of playing the spoiler given the fact that they were supposedly the facilitators. The Afghan government, the US, the UK and some other stakeholders have acknowledged the country’s part in the launch of intra-Afghan talks but then again, going by the current circumstances, this was expected of them because they have been pulling the strings of the Taliban so far. At this juncture, as the US point-man for Afghanistan reconciliation was due in Islamabad on Monday for meetings with Pakistani officials – on the 12th visit in less than two yours – Khalilzad is well-advised to take up these issues and concerns with the country. Meanwhile, the Afghan negotiating sides should show maturity and strive to make this process as Afghan-owned and Afghan-led as possible, denying foreign interference. Otherwise, a small ill-intended speck from stakeholders which possess excessive influence in this process – especially Pakistan – could stoke a breakdown in the talks, to the detriment of the peace process.

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