Pakistan gets ‘facilitator’ role in Afghan peace talks with Taliban

Afghanistan has assigned a formal role to Pakistan in reconciliation process.

Islamabad: Afghanistan has finally assigned a formal role to Pakistan in its peace and reconciliation process - that of a facilitator.

Kabul and Islamabad agreed on Thursday to set up a joint commission for reaching out to the Afghan Taliban.

“Both sides agreed on the creation and operationalisation of a two-tier joint body headed by foreign ministers and deputy foreign minister/foreign secretary to support the peace and reconciliation process,” the Dawn quoted a joint statement at the end of Pak-Afghan foreign ministers’ talks, as saying.

The proceedings were dubbed as ‘preparatory to the new Pakistan-US-Afghanistan trilateral process’, which will be held in Washington next month.

Although Pakistan and Afghanistan had been discussing the possibility of setting up a joint body for reconciliation for the past few weeks following a turnaround in their bilateral ties late last year, it was the US embrace of the reconciliation process in the annual review that really encouraged the two sides to embark on the initiative, the report said.

For long, Washington appeared unwilling to accept reconciliation and had instead been insisting on reintegration of foot soldiers of the Afghan insurgency. It was precisely because of a lack of American support that a Pakistani initiative last summer to push some insurgent factions to make peace with the Karzai government could not succeed, the report added.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made no bones of this reality at the joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul.

“Now that the US has agreed to a political process, they have recognised the importance of reconciliation. It is important that we have in place a mechanism which will promote political engagement,” Qureshi said.

He also advocated the inclusion of military and intelligence elements in the joint body, saying: “The new mechanism needs to be political-cum-military and intelligence” to make it a success.

An official said the Pak-Afghan talks went very well, and that there was a complete harmony of views. “Both sides have realised that they shouldn’t allow others to make each other fight,” he added.

This was very much reflected in the joint statement, which mentioned both countries’ commitment to joining “hands in writing a new chapter in bilateral relations”.