Pakistani special envoy discusses intra-Afghan talks with Taliban in Qatar

Special Pakistani special envoy discusses intra-Afghan talks with Taliban in Qatar
This November 8, 2012 file photo shows Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq giving an interview in Kabul. Sadiq was appointed special envoy for Afghanistan earlier this month by his country. (REUTERS)
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Updated 19 June 2020
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Pakistani special envoy discusses intra-Afghan talks with Taliban in Qatar

Pakistani special envoy discusses intra-Afghan talks with Taliban in Qatar
  • Mohammad Sadiq says Pakistan committed to playing the role of facilitator in the US-brokered peace process
  • Disagreement over Taliban’s demand for the release of 5,000 prisoners has blocked progress toward resolving the conflict

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani special envoy on Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, said on Friday he had met representatives of the Afghan Taliban in Qatar on Wednesday to discuss upcoming intra-Afghan talks and reaffirm Pakistan’s continued role as a “facilitator” in the peace process.
Last week, Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban said they had agreed that Doha would be the venue for the first meeting in their peace talks, known as the intra-Afghan dialogue — the first high-level meeting between the two sides after years of fighting.
No date has been announced for the meeting, but it is expected to take place after the two sides settle differences on the release by the Afghan government of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
In Sadiq’s first meeting with Taliban political representatives since his appointment as special envoy on Afghanistan earlier this month, he met the head of the Taliban political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, and other senior Taliban leaders and discussed the United States-brokered reconciliation process aimed at ending more than 18 years of war in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan will continue to play a role as facilitator for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan,” Sadiq told Arab News on his return from Qatar on Friday, adding that Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent visit to Kabul had “given a new impetus” to Pakistan’s push for peace.
The United States signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in February, but its attempts to usher the insurgent group toward peace talks with the Afghan government have been mired in setbacks. Violence, which surged in March and April, and disagreement over the Taliban’s demand that all 5,000 prisoners be released, have also blocked progress toward resolving the conflict, in which Pakistan is considered a key regional player.
“Mullah Bradar said the release of prisoners according to the 28th February accord [with the US] would be a stepping stone to immediately start intra-Afghan negotiations,” Sadiq said.
He said Pakistan considered Doha a convenient venue for the talks but it was up to the main stakeholders, the Afghan government and the Taliban, to make a final decision on the location.
“On it’s part, the government of Pakistan is fully committed to supporting the peace process,” Sadiq said.
Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen did not reply to questions seeking comment.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told media on Thursday the group still insisted that all 5,000 prisoners on the list had to be released for talks to begin.
The Afghan government in recent weeks has released around 3,000 of the prisoners and is prepared to set free all but a few hundred, Reuters reported. The Taliban has also released hundreds of prisoners.
Included in the contentious group are prisoners involved in large-scale attacks, such as the 2017 truck bombing near Germany’s embassy in Kabul, which killed more than 150, according to Reuters. The Taliban deny high-profile attackers are on their list.