Pakistani, Afghan clerics' conference postponed



Islamabad: Efforts by the Afghan and Pakistani governments to secure religious backing for the troubled peace process in Afghanistan have suffered a setback with the postponement of a conference of clerics.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan were not prepared for the Ulema Conference that was scheduled to be held in Kabul by the end of January, Afghan Ambassador Omer Daudzai said.

The conference will now be held in February though no dates have been finalised as yet, he said.

A delegation of the Afghan organising committee will visit Pakistan soon to discuss the agenda, Daudzai said.

A Pakistani official said Islamabad had formed a five-member organising committee that will hold talks with the Afghan delegation.

The idea of holding the conference, which is aimed at winning religious backing for the Afghan peace process, was first mooted when Afghan High Peace Council chief Salahuddin Rabbani visited Islamabad in November.

Pakistan extended its support to the proposal and assured the Afghan side of its cooperation.

A few weeks after Rabbani's visit, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul, too agreed during official talks in Islamabad to hold the conference by the end of January.

The Afghan Taliban angrily rejected the idea, saying it was part of "American intrigues".

They also asked religious scholars of Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and other countries to reject the conference.

PTI