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Peace talks: Afghanistan says ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to Pakistan

By M. Sidiq Yosufi-KABUL: Afghan government this week rejected to participate in the second round of the peace talks with mediation of any second country, and asked Pakistan to take action against Taliban leadership in its territory instead of bringing them to the negotiation table.

After series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan last week for which the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan spy agency, blamed Pakistani military establishment, President Ashraf Ghani announced that Afghanistan no longer wants Pakistan to “bring Taliban to negotiation table”, but to close Taliban offices, detain perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and to deny treatment of injured Taliban fighters in its hospitals.

Ghani’s remarks come after the first round of formal peace talks with Taliban representatives were held on July 7 in Muree city of Pakistan. The city famous for tourism is not far from Islamabad, proving Afghan intelligence reports more credible about presence of the Taliban leaders in military garrisons in the twin cities, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Though, Pakistani authorities willy-nilly rejected the reports.

The second round, scheduled for July 31, was postponed in request of Taliban due to death reports of their supreme leader Mullah Omar.

Omar’s demise was confirmed by Afghan government late in July. Omar died after being hospitalized in a Karachi hospital in Pakistan in April 2013, according to Afghan spy agency.

Ghani’s decision to halt talks with Taliban via Pakistan was widely welcomed by Afghan political parties, analysts and public, who called it a logical decision and opportunity for those Taliban, who want to hold Talks with Afghan government without any pressure from Pakistani government.

The former president, Hamid Karzai, who recently opposed Ghani’s more soften stance toward Pakistan also supported the new change in strategy of the government.

Karzai in a meeting held on August 12 in Kabul said, “It is imperative to support recent decision of Afghan President and the chief executive against Pakistan.”

Karzai said Pakistani people are friends and bothers to Afghans but “our complain is from Pakistani military and spy agency, who are committing cruelty against Afghans.” Karzai said Pakistani military and spy agency would never be able to achieve their goals through cruelty, threatening and destruction of Afghanistan.

Sources close to Taliban also backed Ghani’s stance to prefer direct talks with Taliban rather than under influence of Pakistan.

“It was a smart decision by our government to halt talks with Taliban under Pakistan’s influence, because Pakistan always tried to use the process as a tool for its own interests, rather than genuine effort for ending war in Afghanistan,” a former Taliban leader who now lives in Kabul told Afghanistan Times on the condition of anonymity.

“Talks under Pakistan’s pressure would only serve Pakistani interests and will never result in a realistic peace deal,” he said.

Referring to a Taliban official statement regarding direct talks he said the Taliban showed willingness to engage in direct talks and bypass the “warmongering Pakistan.”

Taliban in an article, published on their official website, said peace is a “national process” and it cannot be achieved “within the ambit of outsiders [Pakistan].”

The statement said peace and harmony “can be secured through direct contacts between Afghans but not by outsiders.”

The Taliban political office, whose members have been enjoyed freedom in their activities rather than those Taliban who are in Pakistan, said the Taliban representatives, who took part in first round of peace talks were “hijacked” by Pakistani spy agency.

Despite Kabul rejected any possible talks through Islamabad, but Pakistan still insist on its role and trying to drag some Taliban under their influence to take part in second round of talks.

“We will continue to help Afghans in whatever way we can to bring peace to Afghanistan,” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s top security and foreign adviser told journalists this week.

Afghan political analysts and former government officials believe Pakistan is still not honest with Kabul.

The ex-chief of Afghan spy agency, Amrullah Saleh, said that Pakistan was not sincere in his approach toward Afghanistan. Saleh quoting Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz as saying“We can bring Taliban to talks once they resolve leadership issues. But we can’t stop them bomb Afghan cities.”

In reaction to Ghani’s stance, Saleh added “Pakistani sponsored terror has demolished all walls of differences between Afghan political forces and has brought us firmly behind Afghani government.”

However, Afghan government leaders still say that the doors for peace talks would be open for those Afghan Taliban, who still believe in humanity, Islam and Afghanistan.

Afghan security affairs analysts have also appreciated the government’s decision and stressed that Pakistan should be given no role in the peace talks.

  1. Nadeem Alizai told Afghanistan Times that Kabul should not trust Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif or Sartaj Aziz because military establishment in Pakistan is powerful than civilian government.

“Pakistani military has kept Afghan leaders busy in false promises. Civilian government is impotent and often comes with the classic statement that Islamabad is against terrorism. If Pakistan is really against terrorism then she shall not harbor Afghan militants. Nawaz Sharif is a symbolic chief executive of the country like his predecessors. The Pakistani prime minister is weak. He cannot challenge the military establishment. That’s why he cannot take action independently against the then ISI chief Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam for trying to topple the government. Afghans do not see Islamabad as a facilitator but a bargainer and don,” he said.

He said that many Taliban commanders and foot-soldiers are contacting the High Peace Council to renounce violence as they know that Pakistan is playing double game. ISI-backed Taliban leaders could not travel to Afghanistan as they know that they would be killed by their own former and some current comrades.

“Infighting between Taliban leaders have left 15 dead in Herat on Thursday. Earlier, nine Taliban militants were killed including a senior leader, Mullah Ismail, in the infighting. These incidents are clear indicators that the Taliban are now divided into two rival groups—pro-Pakistan and anti-Pakistan,” he quipped.

He said the Afghan government should not let Islamabad or any other country to influence it under the one or other pretext because it would mean surrender of authority and the national pride.

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