Islamabad: Pakistan is trying to mediate
for a rapprochement between Afghanistan`s dreaded Haqqani
network and the Hamid Karzai government, in an apparent effort
to have a major say in the country`s set up after the American
troops withdraw in 2011.
Pakistan has entered the reconciliation process in
Afghanistan by taking on the task of acting as a bridge
between the network of militant commander Sirajuddin Haqqani
and the government in Kabul, a media report said today.
"Preliminary contacts have been established with Siraj
Haqqani and other leaders of his group through intermediaries
in a bid to engineer a rapprochement with the Karzai
administration," an unnamed senior Pakistani security official
was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
Intermediaries have presented a roadmap for a
political settlement between Kabul and the Haqqanis, the
If the plan is accepted by the two sides, it could
bring peace to the war-torn country, government officials
The Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani group is considered the
most potent militant faction in Afghanistan and is viewed as a
serious threat by the regime of President Hamid Karzai and
"Although the future of the initiative is unclear at
the moment, the initial signs are encouraging because the
leadership of the militant group appears to be willing (to
talk)," the security official said.
However, the daily reported that Pakistani officials
were reluctant to discuss the matter at length and few details
were available about the talks.
The initiative on the part of the Pakistan government
follows overtures from the Afghan government.
Analysts noted that there had been a change in
President Karzai`s attitude towards Pakistan in recent weeks.
Karzai`s hostile statements against Pakistan have
apparently stopped and he acknowledged Pakistan`s role in the
Afghan reconciliation process during his visit to Islamabad in
In addition, the resignation of Afghan intelligence
chief Amrullah Saleh and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar is
likely to help improve relations between Afghanistan and
Though Saleh ostensibly quit because of a security
failure during a Taliban attack on the jirga held in Kabul in
the first week of June, observers noted that his departure
from the government fulfils a longstanding demand of Pakistan.
Saleh has vocal in his criticism of Karzai since his
He has alleged that Karzai is now looking to Pakistan,
instead of the US, to bring peace to Afghanistan.
The report said Islamabad`s efforts to mediate between
the Haqqani network and Kabul were result of intense pressure
from the US to launch an offensive in North Waziristan.
However, the Pakistani military is not interested in
opening another front in the tribal belt as it is already
dealing with active operations in areas like the Orakzai
Agency and wants to hold off going into North Waziristan.
At the same time, it is no secret that the military`s
reluctance stems from a number of other reasons, the report
Pakistan Army officials have explained on more than
one occasion that the Haqqani network has not been involved in
attacks inside Pakistan and is not a direct threat to the
state as are other militant groups.
More importantly, elements within the military
establishment which still maintains contacts with Sirajuddin
Haqqani and his father Jalaluddin Haqqani feel that the duo
can yield results for Islamabad in future, analysts believe.
If the Haqqani network becomes part of the future
regime in Afghanistan, it can and will provide Pakistan a say
in the country`s affairs, they said.
It is against this backdrop that Pakistani civilian
and military officials are pushing for a deal between Karzai
and the Haqqani network.
The biggest challenge in working out a settlement is
the US reaction to such an arrangement, analysts said.
Pakistani officials told the Dawn that the US attitude
towards the Haqqani network will become "less intransigent
Pakistan is aware that the Americans are keen to begin
withdrawing from Afghanistan by July 2011 the deadline set
by President Barack Obama and in order for this to happen,
Kabul will have to start a dialogue with some Taliban groups.
American officials have conceded on more than one
occasion that at some stage the Taliban can be engaged,
provided certain conditions are met, such as cutting off ties
with Al Qaida and foreign terrorist groups.
That this possibility does not exclude the Haqqani
group is clear from statements of officials within the US
administration and military.
US Central Command Director of Intelligence Maj Gen
Michael Flynn was quoted by The Atlantic magazine as saying
that Jalaluddin Haqqani was "absolutely salvageable".
Karzai has in the past tried at least twice in 2007
and 2009 to woo the Haqqani group but to no avail.It even
refused to attend the recent Kabul peace jirga.
But since then, Pakistani officials claim that the
Haqqanis have been persuaded to talk to Karzai.
The Haqqani network, which is operationally headed by
Jalaluddin Haqqani`s son Sirajuddin, is believed to have
sanctuaries in Pakistan`s North Waziristan tribal region close
to the Afghan border and is viewed as one of the most potent
militant groups active in Afghanistan.
Though the group operates largely in the southeastern
Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika, US-led forces
have accused it of carrying out attacks in Kabul and Kandahar,
including one on the Indian mission in the Afghan capital.
While Pakistani military and Foreign Office officials
are willing to talk about this initiative in off-the-record
conversations, the official line from the Foreign Office
remains ambiguous: "Pakistan will continue supporting
Afghanistan-led efforts towards reintegration and