Afghan Peace Council members to visit Pakistan

Council seeks Pak help in encouraging Taliban to come to negotiating table.

Islamabad: Members of the Afghan Peace Council will visit Pakistan next week during which they will hold talks with the country`s top leadership on peace efforts in the war-torn country and seek Islamabad`s help in encouraging Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

Afghan Peace Council chief Burhanuddin Rabbani will lead the delegation and this will be the first visit to Pakistan by the body`s members since it was formed in September.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who travelled to Kabul earlier this month, had invited Rabbani to visit Pakistan and meet the political leadership, the `Frontier Post` daily reported.

The presidential spokesman in Kabul confirmed the delegation`s visit to Islamabad.

The newspaper quoted Afghan sources as saying that the Peace Council will seek Pakistan`s help to encourage Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiation table.

Sources said the Peace Council`s members will hold talks with Pakistan government officials and political and religious leaders to seek their assistance in peace efforts.

Pakistan said in February that it had reached out to the Afghan Taliban and experts believe Islamabad still has influence on the militants.

Former warlords, tribal elders and women are among members of the Afghan Peace Council, which was formed to facilitate serious and substantive dialogue with the Taliban.

The Council also includes several members of the former Taliban government.

The Taliban have so far publicly rejected any possibility of talks despite calls by Rabbani and President Hamid Karzai.

The Afghan presidential spokesman has been quoted as saying that the government attaches high hopes to the Peace Council`s visit to Islamabad.

Rabbani recently toured several main cities in Afghanistan and sought the help of tribal elders and other personalities for the peace efforts.

Sources said the Peace Council`s members also plan to travel to other Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, to seek their help in Afghan reconciliation efforts.

PTI

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