Pakistani Team Due To Visit Kabul Over Peace Talks

A high level Pakistani delegation is due to visit Kabul in the near future to meet with Afghan officials in a bid to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban, a member of the High Peace Council (HPC) said on Monday.

This comes after President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani leaders agreed earlier this month to resume the peace process – following a slight ease of tensions between the two countries.

Reports have emerged in Pakistani media that the talks are likely to happen on January 2 and that the prime minister’s adviser on security and foreign relations Sartaj Aziz and Afghanistan’s national security advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar will be present.

As speculation over the resumption of peace talks deepens, the National Security Council (NSC) has dismissed reports regarding the talks, saying that so far the government has not confirmed the move.

“An agreement was made on peace at the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference. President Ghani notified us that initially a delegation from Pakistan will arrive in Kabul for holding talks on the venue of the talks,” HPC member Hajji Din Mohammad said.

In the wake of conflicting statements by the Afghan officials on the resumption of peace talks, Pakistani media have quoted Pakistani officials as saying talks are now set to begin within two weeks.

Pakistani officials have said that Islamabad is using all available channels to bring the Afghan government and Taliban to the negotiations table early January.

Pakistan’s national security adviser and ex-army general Nasir Khan Janjua will represent Pakistan in the talks and from the Afghan side, Hanif Atmar will be attend.

“A decision so far has not been made to finalize the venue of the talks, reports circulated in media about talks are baseless,” a spokesman for the NSC, Tawab Ghorzang, said.

The peace council says that so far no change has happened in the structure of the Afghan peace delegation, reiterating the call for the talks to be held under the leadership the HPC.

“So far there has not been a change in the formation of peace negotiators. First round of talks were under the peace council. A change is likely to occur in the leadership of the peace council and after that peace talks will move forward,” Din Mohammad said.

Efforts for peace talks have deepened at a time that many within the country believe that the Afghan peace process has been a failed process.

Pakistan which reportedly wields influence over the Taliban hosted the first round of formal talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in July under the supervision of China and the US.

But, the talks deadlocked following the reported death of the group’s longtime leader Mullah Omar in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a gathering of Pakistani and Afghan politicians including civil society activists on Monday discussed ways in which they can help the two countries come together regarding peace talks.

“Afghanistan and Pakistan face many challenges, but we are certain to continue positive interactions between the two governments and a multi-facilitated cooperative relationship,” Pakistani ambassador to Kabul Sayed Abrar Hussain said.

Addressing the gathering, British ambassador to Afghanistan Karen Pierce called on Kabul-Islamabad to cooperate in order to restore peace in the region.

“We do need both sides at all levels whether in foreign ministries, in the executive, in the parliament and the intelligence agencies to get together to find a way through. Because this war, this proxy war, has claimed far too many lives and has hurt far too many people,” UK ambassador Karen Pierce said.

Civil society activists meanwhile, criticized Pakistan’s dual policy on peace in Afghanistan.

“The good thing is that all agreed that sometimes our politicians talk nonsense. We hope to prove the truthful stance of Afghanistan in this seminar to Pakistan,” political analyst Ahmad Saeedi said.

“Coming to Afghanistan has been a very useful experience for me, we have been hearing what all is happening in Afghanistan and very sad stories – of course there are many sad stories in Pakistan too, as you know that thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists in Pakistan and this is a very sad mindset of terrorists and extremists that Pakistan is fighting,” Pakistani politician Shazia Marri said.

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