Taliban`s pol office likely to be set up in Turkey

The proposed political office of the Taliban is likely to be set up either in Turkey or Turkmenistan.

Last Updated: Jul 19, 2011, 16:08 PM IST

Islamabad: The proposed political office
of the Taliban is likely to be set up either in Turkey or
Turkmenistan that will pave the way for interaction and future
dialogue aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan, a senior
member of the Afghan High Peace Council has said.

Arsala Rehmani, a member of the council and ex-deputy
minister for higher education during the Taliban regime, said
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates too had been
proposed for the Afghan Taliban`s political office.

"I believe that Turkey and Turkmenistan are now
emerging as the likely hosts for the Taliban political
office," Rehmani said from Kabul.

He said the Afghan High Peace Council "needs a
representation and political address of the Taliban for
interaction to take the peace process forward".

The world community too is interested in a political
office for the Taliban as "we do not know where we should meet
the Taliban leaders", said Rehmani, whose name was removed
from a UN blacklist on Friday along with 13 others.

Channels of communication remained open for discussion
on the issue of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar hosting the
office, he said.

Turkey was first proposed for the office last year
when the Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey met in
Istanbul.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had then told a joint
news conference that the opening of the Taliban office would
be a "development that could help peace talks" in his war-torn
country.

Pakistan, which is seeking a greater role in the
Afghan reconciliation process, has backed the setting up of a
Taliban office.

Islamabad has said it supports the Afghan-driven
reconciliation process and is working with Afghanistan in the
Joint Commission for Peace and Reconciliation.

While Pakistan has said the Afghan Peace Council, led
by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, will hold talks with
rival armed groups, it has categorically opposed the notion
that anyone other than the Afghans should lead the peace
process.

Former Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef too
supported the idea of a Taliban office outside Afghanistan but
said there had been no substantial progress on the issue.

"I think a place is required for interaction with the
Taliban as it is a complicated matter and it would be a long
process," Zaeef said from Kabul.

"But the important thing is that the (the Afghan
Taliban) have not demanded any political office for themselves
but the proposal was floated by the Peace Council," he said.

Meanwhile, Rehmani called for the removal of the names
of all Taliban leaders, who are fighting foreign and Afghan
forces, from the sanctions list.

Besides Rehmani, Habibullah Fauzi, Syed Rahman Haqqani
and Faqir Mohammad were earlier on the sanctions list but are
now members of the government-backed Peace Council.

Rehmani was of the view that the removal of names of
only those who have joined the peace process would not be
effective for the peace process.

"We are not involved in war and removal of only our
names from the blacklist will not change the status quo," he
said.

He called for the removal of the names of
Hizb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar group) leaders from the UN blacklist.

Rehmani said no solid step had so for been taken for
the reconciliation process, adding that the removal of names
of Taliban leaders could be a major "confidence-building
measure".

Afghan President Karzai and former US Defence
Secretary Robert Gates have publicly said talks with the
Taliban had been held, a claim rejected by the militants.

PTI