Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-e-Islami of Afghanistan has arrived in Islamabad today on a three-day visit as part of ongoing efforts seeking an end to the lingering unrest in Afghanistan. This is the second high-level visit from Afghanistan after the recent arrival of Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghan Peace Council.
Soon after his arrival, the Hezb-e-Islami leader met Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Matters of bilateral interest and the Afghan peace process were discussed between the two.
The Foreign Office stipulates that Hekmatyar will also meet the prime minister and president and will meet the chairman senate, speaker of National Assembly, foreign minister, and other dignitaries.
He will also deliver a talk at a policy think-tank and interact with the media. This visit will provide an opportunity for the exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations as well as people-to-people interaction, the FO statement added earlier.
Afghan peace talks and Pakistan’s role
The visit comes nearly three weeks after the official Islamabad trip of High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) chairman Abdullah Abdullah — Afghanistan’s top envoy for the ongoing negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban — as Pakistan is engaged with all Afghan stakeholders for the sake of the peace process, the Pakistani ambassador to Kabul, Mansoor Khan told foreign media.
“We are in touch with President Ashraf Ghani and his government. We invited Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who is chairman of HCNR and also a leading politician in Afghanistan coming from the Jamiat-e-Islami party and had a useful exchange of views with him about the peace process and bilateral relations. Now we will be hosting Gullbuddin Hekmatyar who hails from another leading Afghan party Hizb-e-Islami,” Mansoor Khan was quoted as saying.
He added: “Pakistan has a policy of expanding its outreach to all Afghan leaders and politicians so that conditions for the intra-Afghan negotiations remain conducive and the process continues to move forward.”
Prior to intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar, which started on September 12, Pakistan also hosted a Taliban delegation to discuss the peace process. Hekmatyar’s upcoming visit was announced by Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, who wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday that the Hizb-e-Islami leader will meet with the prime minister, president and other top officials.
The Hizb chief will also meet the Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Senator Sirajul Haq, according to Hekmatyar’s schedule. Hekmatyar’s son, Habibur Rehman, who will be in the delegation, described the visit as very important because of Pakistan’s key role in the peace process.
“As Pakistan’s role is a key to the peace process, so we want to have a better understanding with Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying. “We will discuss the difficulties in the peace process and how to remove the obstacles, and how to make the peace process successful,” he said.
The US and Afghan side expect Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire or reduce the current level of violence. Taliban have so far refused to agree on a truce, insisting a ceasefire would be part of the overall agreement reached through talks.
Pakistan welcomes US – Taliban peace deal
Earlier this year, Pakistan welcomed the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal aimed at ending the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. The U.S. inked a landmark deal with the Taliban earlier in the day in Doha, Qatar, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months. The agreement was expected to lead to dialogue between the Taliban and the Kabul government, seeking an end to the armed conflict that began in 2001.
In a statement, Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan termed the accord “start of a peace & reconciliation process to end decades of war & suffering of the Afghan people.” “I have always maintained that a political solution, no matter how complex, is the only meaningful path to peace,” Khan tweeted.
Without naming any country or group, Khan urged all stakeholders to ensure “spoilers are kept at bay. My prayers for peace for the Afghan people who have suffered 4 decades of bloodshed. Pakistan is committed to playing its role in ensuring the agreement holds & succeeds in bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Khan added.
Pakistan was represented in the ceremony by the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Qureshi said the agreement carried immense importance — both in symbolism and substance — for Afghanistan, the region and beyond.