Pakistan has 'will and influence' to help negotiate settlement with Taliban – ex-PM

Pakistan has 'will and influence' to help negotiate settlement with Taliban – ex-PM
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Afghan fomer prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (2L) attends a peace conference, in Bhurban on June 22, 2019. Senior Afghan political leaders attended the peace conference in Bhurban ahead of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Islamabad. (AFP)
Pakistan has 'will and influence' to help negotiate settlement with Taliban – ex-PM
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Afghan politicians and other participants pose for photograph with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, second right, after the opening session of an Afghan Peace Conference in Bhurban, 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, June 22, 2019. Dozens of Afghan political leaders attended a peace conference in neighboring Pakistan on Saturday to pave the way for further Afghan-to-Afghan dialogue. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2019

Pakistan has 'will and influence' to help negotiate settlement with Taliban – ex-PM

Pakistan has 'will and influence' to help negotiate settlement with Taliban – ex-PM
  • Two-day peace conference in Murree brought together more than 50 Afghan factional leaders
  • The moot lacked representation from Taliban and Kabul government

MURREE: Afghan delegates who gathered for a peace summit in Pakistan’s lush hill station of Bhurban two hours north of the capital said on Saturday that the window to find a solution to end Afghanistan’s lengthy civil war was fast closing.
The inaugural session of a two-day moot hosted by Pakistan kicked off with an address by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who called for rebuilding trust between Islamabad and Kabul.
The Afghan delegation is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday (today), ahead of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan next week.
Over 50 Afghan delegates from various political groups are attending the conference, but there are no representatives of the Afghan Taliban, the primary stakeholders in the peace process who have been fighting against foreign troops and the US-backed civilian government for years. The Kabul government is also not in attendance.
“The moment of this opportunity is brief,” said Ahmad Wali Massoud, an Afghan politician and diplomat who served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. “I think if we cannot achieve a peace settlement in the next two months, we may miss this opportunity,” he said, adding that Pakistan had a major role to play alongside other countries in the region in ensuring a negotiated settlement.
The conference, called the “Lahore process,” is one of many initiatives taken by Afghanistan’s neighbors and allies aimed at bolstering a faltering peace process to reach an intra-Afghan solution to a war entering its eighteenth year.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been tense in recent years with Kabul accusing Pakistan of sheltering Taliban militants since US-led forces removed them from power in 2001. Islamabad denies the claims, but the US has been pushing Pakistan to use its influence over the insurgents to open direct negotiations with the Kabul government, something the Taliban have so far refused to do. Pakistan says it no longer has enough sway over the Taliban.
A conference organizer, Dr. Maria Sultan, told Arab News on Saturday that the next peace summit organized by Pakistan would include the Afghan Taliban.
Viable paths to peace and stability in Afghanistan, trade, economy, health, women’s empowerment, reconstruction, development, and regional connectivity were discussed in three sessions of the conference and were followed by a state dinner hosted by Pakistani President Dr. Arif Alvi.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said all countries involved in the Afghan multilateral peace process were “on the same page” for peace and reconciliation despite a “global flux and heightened tensions.”
“Here is an opportunity that should not be wasted and should be seized,” he said.
The conference’s most notable delegate, former Afghan Prime Minister and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said Pakistan had the will and influence to help negotiate a settlement with the Taliban and had shown its sincerity.
“No war can last forever,” Hekmetyar told Arab News. “All Afghans need to have a consensus for mapping the future of Afghanistan but unfortunately foreign interference and our government taking dictation from foreign forces has been an obstacle in reaching an understanding.”
“The next coalition government should be formed with the consent of the Afghan people, based on our values and through transparent elections,” he said.
Sayyid Hamid Gailani, leader of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, a party known for its religiously moderate views, said he welcomed Pakistan’s initiative to host the peace conference.
“The cream of the Afghan political and jihadist leaders have gathered here,” he told Arab News, saying they were all keen to make the intra-Afghan process successful and settle differences including with the Taliban.
“We have an extreme time constraint to achieve our objective before it’s too late. If it doesn’t bear productive results, then it runs out of steam,” he said. “And we don’t want that to happen.”