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Efforts afoot to convince Taliban for talks with Kabul

16 July, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: After Tokyo conference on Afghanistan, efforts to convince Taliban for talks with the Kabul government have been expedited and Pakistan is playing an important role in this regard, Afghan and Pakistani official sources said on Sunday.

Taliban are willing to resume talks with the US under certain conditions but reluctant to kick off dialogue with Karzai administration, Taliban Shura's sources said.

When asked, the Foreign Office Spokesman declined to specifically explain as to what type of efforts were carried out by Pakistan to convince Taliban for talks with the Afghan government. However, he said that Pakistan had already urged all the groups in Afghanistan to take part in the reconciliation process. "Pakistan is a facilitator of peace in the country and would support Afghan-led reconciliation process," he said. Behind the scene efforts are afoot to convince Taliban and other groups to hold talks with the Afghan government, sources in the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

The first meeting of the ministerial level core group was held in Tokyo this month as Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul met and urged Taliban to abandon violence and enter a dialogue with the Kabul government. The sources said that the US agreed that conditions for dialogue with the militant group in Afghanistan were counter-productive.

Spokesman of the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad, Zardasht Shams, has admitted that efforts to bring Taliban on negotiating table and encourage them to reach some settlement with the government have been expedited after Tokyo conference. "Taliban representatives attended the Kyoto conference and representatives of Kabul were also there."

The Afghan government sources claimed that Taliban's representative met a senior Afghan official in June amid peace and reconciliation conference in Japan organised by Kyoto's Doshisha University just a couple of days before the Tokyo conference.

Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has accepted that Taliban's former planning minister Qari Din Muhammad Hanif attended the conference in Kyoto to "to explain the policies of the Islamic Emirate." However, he said nothing on his meeting with Masoom Stanakzai, head of the High Peace Council's Secretariat, who represented Afghan government on the occasion.

Talking to our sources, a senior Taliban leader ruled out the possibility that Taliban would be influenced for the talks with the government in Kabul at least for now.

The trilateral meeting between Pakistani, Afghan and the US officials in Islamabad agreed in April on giving safe passage to Taliban and also facilitating their travel for peace talks. But the result of the meeting was rejected by Taliban the very next day. "Taliban are thinking that their war is with the US. Secondly, they are interested in freeing Taliban detainees from the US custody. So I don't think that they would agree to hold talks with the Afghan government, at least, before reaching some agreement with the US," Tahir Khan, a journalist, told our sources.

Sources informed that Taliban agreed to restart the suspended talks with Washington in Qatar while at the same time refusing to negotiate with the Kabul government. However, the US officials said that ultimate purpose of the talks process is reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan and the US officials several times urged Pakistan to play its role for reconciliation in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called upon Pakistan to help in negotiation with Taliban, and Islamabad appealed to all the groups in February to take steps for reconciliation.

In a bid to win Taliban's support for reconciliation and talks with the incumbent setup in Afghanistan, Karzai called upon their Supreme leader Mullah Omer to take part in the coming elections.

With the announcement of the withdrawal of the foreign forces, local pressure on Taliban for reconciliation has also increased. An expert on Afghan affairs, Sami Yousafzai, told our sources that the formation of local militia in Kunduz, Helmand and other areas as well as public rising against Taliban in Ghazni shows that political pressure for peace against them is on the rise.

Hizb-e-Islami (Hikmatyar), which is politically strong and still enjoys military influence in certain parts of Afghanistan, is supporting talks among Afghan factions, including the government along with negotiating peace with international community.

End.

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