Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Afghan-Pak Friendly Relations Critical to Peace Process

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Afghan-Pak Friendly Relations Critical  to Peace Process

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have passed many ups and downs. Afghan-Pak officials exchanged harsh rhetoric against each other about the issue of terrorism on multiple occasions. The two sides viewed each other with mistrust despite the exchanges of trip between Afghan-Pak high-profile delegations. Recently, the relations between the two countries seem to be in the making.
On his trip to Islamabad, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman held a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi for the first review session of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), under which the two sides agreed last year to discuss diplomatic and political issues and military and intelligence cooperation.
Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said after a meeting with Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani in Kabul that the talks focused on relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Discussed building further international consensus for peace. Also regional requirements and implications for peace including recent positive movement in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations,” Khalilzad wrote in a tweet.
Last week President Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had a meeting on the sidelines of an Organization of Islamic Cooperation Conference in Saudi Arabia, in which Ghani’s visit to Islamabad on June 27 was agreed. Later, Ghani hoped that his trip would change years of mistrust into mutual trust and cooperation towards peace.
Pakistani officials have said constantly that they would support Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace talks and use their leverage to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the Kabul government. Moreover, Islamabad has been reiterating dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government arguing that military deal would not lead to peace.
Meanwhile, Afghan officials believe that Pakistan’s role in peace talks would be highly significant since she has leverage on the Taliban. According to officials, Pakistan would be able to bring the Taliban to the peace table with Afghan representatives. With the Imran Khan administration, Afghan officials are more optimistic and hopeful about Pakistan’s support for peace talks.
Having said that, the Taliban still refuse to hold direct talks with the Afghan government. Despite the fact that the Ghani administration has been pushing for talks, the Taliban, turning down the offer, have intensified their attacks against Afghan soldiers and civilians. The Taliban, who have reportedly targeted Afghan civilians intentionally in recent weeks, carry out indiscriminate attacks to put pressure on the government. On the contrary, President Ghani said in his Eid message that he would release hundreds of the Taliban militants jailed in Afghan prisons as a gesture of goodwill saying that the release had been demanded by Afghan representatives in Loya Jirga. However, the Taliban have showed no positive reaction to the issue continuing their insurgency.
Although the Taliban held sixth round of talks with the US representatives in Qatar, insurgency continues unabated and the Taliban have not signaled positively for ceasefire. In short, the US-Taliban backdoor talks have had no direct impact on Afghanistan’s security situation so far.
Germany has reportedly offered to support an intra-Afghan dialogue to be held in Qatar next month. Khalilzad tweeted after his trip to Germany that “Germany also hosted 2nd US-Europe Group for Afghan Peace meeting”. He added, “After peace process update, we reviewed upcoming Oslo Forum & German-Qatari hosted intra-Af dialogue. Our focus was intra-Af negotiations (that lead to a political roadmap)….”
The Afghan government has always welcomed the constructive role of the neighboring countries and regional stakeholders calling on them to engage actively in arranging intra-Afghan dialogue. Germany, which hosted the Bonn Conference to support the establishment of interim government in the post-Taliban administration, was actively and constructively engaged in Afghanistan’s issues.
The news about intra-Afghan dialogue to be hosted by Germany and Qatar will generate optimism for Afghan officials about meaningful talks. The regional stakeholders, especially Qatar, should use their leverage on the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government and be reasonable at the table.
Islamabad is expected to play more active and constructive role in the peace talks so as to support peace and stability in Afghanistan. Indeed, Pakistan’s support to peace process is highly essential and she will be able to persuade the Taliban to come to the table with Afghan representatives.
The two countries have to cement their ties and increase their mutual cooperation, mainly in peace issues. It is self-evident that terrorists are common threat to the two countries jeopardizing the life of both Afghan and Pakistani people. Thus, Kabul and Islamabad have to seek common ground, combat common threat, and increase their mutual cooperation.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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