Pak Govt delegation participated in Afghan peace talks: Report
Last Updated: Monday, October 11, 2010, 21:47
Islamabad: A Pakistani government delegation participated in peace talks between Taliban representatives and Afghan officials in Kabul last week, according to a media report.

The Pakistani delegation joined the talks held at Kabul's Serena Hotel on October 6, the US government-funded Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE- RL) reported.

The talks were "aimed at setting the ground for negotiations on ending the Afghanistan war", the report said.

Abdul Hamid Mubarez, who heads the NGO Afghan Strategic Center and is a member of the Afghan Peace Council, told RFE-RL that Pakistan's government is playing a central role in negotiations.

"The people of Afghanistan are tired of war and Pakistan government has a key role in these talks because the Taliban have their strongholds in Pakistan," he said.

"They (Taliban) are under the influence of Pakistan. I think Pakistan is facing problems that leave no other way except to help resolve this conflict," Mubarez said.

RFE-RL claimed the Pakistani delegation was headed by former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao.

Former members of the Taliban involved in the talks include the regime's ex-foreign minister Malawi Mutawakel, and the Taliban regime's former point of contact with the United Nations, Abdul Hakim Mujahed.

Mubarez said the purpose of the parleys was to develop a mechanism for more specific talks with Taliban leaders aimed at ending the Afghanistan war.

"If I did not have confidence in significant progress from these talks, I would not be participating in this Peace Council," he said.

Last week's parleys followed inconclusive meetings hosted by Saudi Arabia that ended more than a year ago.

RFE-RL's Radio Free Afghanistan quoted its sources as saying that the Afghan Peace Council was not yet officially involved in the talks because its mandate did not begin until October 7.

Some of the Peace Council's 69 members reportedly attended the October 6 negotiations.

The Peace Council comprises Afghan government delegates and lawmakers, former mujahedin commanders, leaders of Afghan NGOs, former Taliban officials and delegates who once were members of the now exiled Afghan mujahedin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami group.

The White House said on October 6 that President Barack Obama supported recent attempts by the Afghan government to negotiate peace with Taliban insurgents.

However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reiterated that Taliban leaders must first give up violence and their support for al Qaeda, and must promise to respect Afghan law.

Gibbs also said it was up to Afghan leaders to decide whom to talk with.

The Washington Post recently reported that "secret talks" of a "preliminary nature" were under way.

The report gave no details about where discussions were taking place or who was attending.

But it did quote Afghan and Arab sources who said Taliban representatives were, for the first time, fully authorized to speak for the Afghan Taliban's Pakistan-based Quetta Shura and its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The Post report also said the talks did not include representatives of the Haqqani group a Taliban faction that has been the target of stepped up US drone attacks in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.

The Haqqani network is seen as being more closely tied to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency than the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban.


First Published: Monday, October 11, 2010, 21:47

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