Afghan Taliban in Islamabad: Pakistan’s Role in Regional Peace

A delegation of the Afghan Taliban met with Foreign Minister Qureshi, and the two sides agreed upon the early resumption of the peace process in order to welcome stability and prosperity across the region.

Afghan Taliban

A high-level delegation of the Afghan Taliban arrived in Islamabad to meet Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday. The delegation was received by the Foreign Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the meeting, the delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC), led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other senior Taliban officials, discussed the regional political situation with Foreign Minister Qureshi’s delegation, alongside the Afghan peace process and other mutually concerning issues.

The Pakistani delegation consisted of Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, and other officials of the Foreign Office.

Afghan Taliban-Pakistan Talks

A press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that this was the first-ever visit of a Taliban delegation to Islamabad after the establishment of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC).

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed the delegation amidst warm hugs and cheerful greetings and underscored that the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are bound together by the strongest bond of Islam, their shared history and culture, alongside their geographic ties.

The Foreign Minister stated that the 40 years of instability and conflict in Afghanistan have caused tremendous suffering for the people of both countries. He underscored Pakistan’s sincere desire to make “all possible efforts for an early, peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan.”

It is unclear whether Zalmay Khalilzad will be meeting Mullah Baradar. The two have held multiple meetings during the political negotiations held in Qatar.

A press release issued by MoFA stated, “Mr. Qureshi added that Pakistan would continue to support all efforts to achieve permanent peace in Afghanistan which was essential for Pakistan’s own socio-economic development and progress. He added that Pakistan had wholeheartedly supported Afghanistan in its difficult times during the past four decades.”

It added, “In line with the teachings of Islam and as part of its moral obligation as a friendly neighbor, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan brothers and sisters during this period. All these years Pakistan has also kept reminding the world not to overlook the hardcore political, economic, socio-cultural and ethnic ground realities in Afghanistan and its immediate neighborhood.”

No Military Solution in Afghanistan

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated that for several years, Pakistan has maintained that the complex situation of Afghanistan can never be resolved through a military solution. MoFA stated his remarks, “An inclusive peace and reconciliation process, involving all sections of the Afghan society, was the only, practical way forward.”

“Foreign Minister further noted that the direct Taliban-US talks since last year, strongly and sincerely supported by Pakistan, had now laid a firm ground for achieving a sustainable peace deal in Afghanistan. A pacific settlement of the conflict would lead to a significant reduction of violence, end of bloodshed and long-term peace, stability, and prosperity for future generations of Afghanistan.”

The Foreign Minister appreciated the serious engagement of the Taliban during the peace process, however, he stressed upon the need to take these efforts towards a logical conclusion. He stressed that Pakistan seeks both sides to return to the table and grasp the opportunity for peace.

The Foreign Office stated in this regard, “He noted that the existing, broad regional and international consensus for achieving peace in Afghanistan at the earliest provided an unprecedented opportunity that must not be lost. It was up to the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to grasp this opportunity. FM Qureshi expressed the hope that the currently paused peace process would be restarted at an early date.”

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The TPC delegation thanked Pakistan for its hospitality, and its support for peace in Afghanistan. The two sides agreed upon the urgency of resuming the peace process. Foreign Minister Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s commitment and continued strong support for all efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

He stressed that the “reduction of violence by all parties to the conflict was necessary to provide an enabling environment for the resumption of the peace process at an early date.”

Afghan Peace Talks to Resume?

The delegation led by Mullah Baradar and other Afghan Taliban leaders was visiting the Federal Capital around the same time when Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special US envoy for Afghan Peace, was also in the country.

Mullah Baradar is one of the most influential leaders of the Afghan Taliban, and he had been detained by the Pakistani authorities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Baradar was released in October 2018, and he assumed the leadership of the political office of the Taliban in a bid to facilitate talks with the US.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday, to hold wide-ranging discussions with the civil and military leadership of Pakistan on the revival of the talks with the Afghan Taliban. However, speaking to the AP, an unnamed US Official stated that Khalilzad was not in Islamabad for the resumption of the Afghan peace process.

AP stated that the US Special Envoy had arrived to hold discussions with the Pakistani leadership, including Prime Minister Imran Khan. It is unclear whether Zalmay Khalilzad will be meeting Mullah Baradar. The two have held multiple meetings during the political negotiations held in Qatar.

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Recently, delegations of the Afghan Taliban have also visited Iran, China and Russia to gain regional support. Speaking to AFP, Taliban Spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said that the Taliban are still willing to meet with Khalilzad and sign the agreement, which was negotiated by Baradar and Khalilzad in Doha.

Shaheen said, “We stand for it. The Americans have backtracked and they will have to take the initiative.”

Media reports reveal that the delegation led by Baradar is expected to spend four days in Pakistan, and will also be holding a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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