A delegation from the Taliban’s Qatar-based political office, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday on a three-day visit. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed the Taliban delegation at the Foreign Office, where he held a meeting with the members.
Speaking to the media after the talks, the minister reiterated Pakistan’s desire for a reduction in violence and ceasefire in Afghanistan to take forward the peace process. He said responsibility in this regard rested with “all the stakeholders”, the local tv channel reported.
Qureshi said the Taliban delegation during the talks had shown their eagerness and seriousness for peace in Afghanistan and acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in the country.
He termed the ongoing talks a historic opportunity for the Afghan parties to take matters towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
In a press release later in the day, the FO said before the talks began, Qureshi spoke about the previous two meetings with the Taliban delegation, terming them “very fruitful”.
Qureshi also highlighted Pakistan’s role as a mediator, bringing up the crucial part it played in brokering the landmark US-Taliban peace deal in Doha.
“Pakistan has consistently said from the start that the only path towards establishing long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is through fruitful and comprehensive talks,” the foreign minister was quoted as saying.
FM Qureshi stressed that peace and a return to normalcy in Afghanistan are “essential for peace and stability in the entire region”.
That is why, he said, Pakistan wishes for “agreement on rules regarding intra-Afghan talks,” so it can pursue, “multilateral brotherhood with Afghanistan”.
Qureshi also apprised the delegation on past developments and steps taken by the Pakistan government to further the peace process in a smooth and diplomatic manner.
The mention was made of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Afghanistan last month where he expressed his warm wishes for peace to the people of Afghanistan.
“We have announced 1,000 new scholarships for skilled Afghan students […] so that these students can help in the development of Afghanistan,” Qureshi said during the meeting with the delegation.
“There are deep trade ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Gwadar Port can be helpful in this regard. We want to make trade agreements more active to promote bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We don’t want the land of Afghanistan to be used against Pakistan,” he said.
The head of the Taliban delegation, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, praised Pakistan’s active role in bringing peace to Afghanistan and extended his gratitude for the warm welcome, the FO said.
The latest visit by the Taliban team comes in the backdrop of a 20-day break in intra-Afghan negotiations and the upcoming transition in the United States.
The Afghan government and Taliban negotiators have taken the break to consult their principals on the negotiations on the agenda of the talks.
Meanwhile, the change at the White House next month, intensified fighting in Afghanistan and lack of clarity about the next venue for the talks have inserted an element of uncertainty into the process.
Taliban delegation’s visit follows closely on the heels of a trip by US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad to Islamabad on Monday.
Pakistan this year not only helped the US and Taliban sign their agreement but also facilitated the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and more lately the agreement on rules and procedures for the dialogue.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his visit to Kabul last month, assured the Afghan leadership of Pakistan’s cooperation for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan. He told President Ashraf Ghani that “we will do whatever is within our reach”.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in his meeting with Khalilzad assured him of Pakistan’s continued support for efforts for regional peace and stability.