Pak Govt delegation participated in Afghan peace talks: Report

A Pakistani government delegation participated in peace talks between Taliban representatives and Afghan officials in Kabul last week, according to a media report.

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.