KABUL: The Afghan government has slammed Pakistan for hosting Taliban leaders and demanded Islamabad stops sheltering militants on its soil.
A high-level Taliban delegation, led by the group’s deputy head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday to hold talks with Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the country’s intelligence chief.
“Hosting an insurgent group is against all norms and principles among countries,” said Sediq Seddiqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s chief spokesman.
Islamabad said on Thursday that it would continue making efforts for “lasting peace in Afghanistan” after holding initial talks with the Taliban leaders.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the meeting with Pakistani officials involved discussions on Afghan refugees, businessmen based in Pakistan and regional security.
The Taliban delegation arrived in Islamabad when the US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was also present and sources in the US Embassy confirmed that a meeting did take place between the two sides.
The development comes weeks after US President Donald Trump abruptly called off peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar after nearly a year of intense engagement that had created high hopes of a deal to restore peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan.
Trump linked his move to the killing of a US solider in Kabul by the Taliban in a suicide attack which also claimed the lives of 10 Afghans.
Khan, who met with Trump in New York at the UN General Assembly, urged the stalled peace dialogue to resume and offered his country’s positive role to help support the two sides.
However, Sediqqi said that the Taliban’s recent Islamabad visit would not help the peace process in Afghanistan.
“The peace process can be effective when it is led and owned by the government of Afghanistan and we do not see any sign of commitment for peace from the Taliban group,” he said.
“Our usual demand from Pakistan has been to destroy the safe havens of Taliban and terrorists on its soil and play a positive role in the security of the region,” he added.
Pakistan was among the few countries to recognize the Taliban’s government, which ruled much of Afghanistan from 1996 until it was ousted by US-led troops in late 2001.
Islamabad has been accused by both the Afghan government and US officials for backing and giving shelter to the Taliban on its soil, an allegation Pakistan has vehemently denied.
Ahead of the trip to Pakistan, the Taliban delegation also visited Russia, China and Iran, propagating the group’s point of view that it was interested in resuming talks with Washington while blaming Trump for canceling a peace deal that had reached its final stage.