Pakistan will continue efforts for Afghanistan’s stability: Minister - GulfToday

Pakistan will continue efforts for Afghanistan’s stability: Minister

Shah-Mahmood-Qureshi

Participants pose for a photograph with Shah Mehmood Qureshi (fourth right) in Bhurban on Saturday. Associated Press

Dozens of Afghan political leaders attended a peace conference in Pakistan on Saturday to pave the way for further Afghan-to-Afghan dialogue. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi opened the conference by saying his country will continue its efforts towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The Afghan leaders are also scheduled to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan during their visit.

The conference is to be followed by meetings and working sessions over the next two days, all of which come in the run-up to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan next week.

Ghani, his political opponents and a broad swath of Afghan civil society have been holding meetings in recent days with the United States’ special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who continues to press for talks between the Afghan government, the opposition and the Taliban.

There are no representatives of the Taliban at Saturday’s conference, held near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

However, attending the conference is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who struck a peace deal with Ghani’s government and was taken off a US terrorist list. That peace deal was touted as a blueprint for an agreement with the Taliban, although the insurgents dismissed Hekmatyar as a spent force with no military might.

Still, at the outset of Saturday’s meeting, Hekmatyar urged his fellow Afghans to press for the Taliban’s demand for a quick and full withdrawal of US and Nato troops from Afghanistan.

Washington has been holding talks with the Taliban to find a negotiated exit to its 17-year engagement in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, Khalilzad was in Doha where the Taliban maintain a political office, but it still wasn’t clear when he would meet again with the militants, who control or wield significant influence in nearly half of the country.

The Taliban have refused to sit with government representatives but say they will sit with any Afghan, even a government official, but as an ordinary Afghan and not as a government representative.

An earlier attempt at Afghan-to-Afghan talks was scuttled after neither side could agree on participants.

Among the figures in attendance at Saturday’s conference in Pakistan were the head of the Afghan government-sponsored high peace council, Mohammad Karim Khalili, as well as the leader of the powerful Jamiat-e-Islami political party, Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, and a current presidential candidate, Haneef Atmar, who is a former national security adviser.

The event was backed by the Pakistani government and organised by two think tanks, the Lahore Centre for Peace Research and the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute.

Also on Saturday, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani arrived Islamabad on a two-day visit.

He is visiting Pakistan for the first time in four years. The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the Qatari leader will hold talks with Imran and meet with President Arif Alvi. It was not clear whether the Qatari leader’s visit was timed to coincide with the Afghan leaders peace conference in Islamabad or was a coincidence.

Meanwhile, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa asserted that Pakistan has been moving towards attaining sustainable peace and stability.

According to a statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the army chief addressed a seminar on “Pakistan’s Regional Security Perspective” at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London.

Bajwa stated that this can be complemented through meaningful international partnership, support and will to take on regional challenges.

He said that improved security offers foreign investment in Pakistan, a pivot to regional connectivity.

However, he added that the future of enduring peace and stability in South Asia hinges on ability to resolve issues and long pending disputes within the region.

On Thursday, the army chief arrived in London where he was scheduled to interact with senior British civil-military leadership to discuss matters of mutual interest, including evolving geo-strategic environment, defence and security.

Agencies