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FM, TCP discuss Afghan peace process

ISLAMABAD, Oct 03 (WNP): A high-level Afghan Taliban delegation currently in Islamabad to meet the Pakistani leadership was received by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday morning, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Office (FO).

During their meeting with the foreign minister, the delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) in Doha discussed the regional situation, the Afghan peace process and other issues of mutual interest.

Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, Foreign Affairs Secretary Sohail Mahmood and other FO officials were present for the meeting.

According to the FO, this is the first visit of a Taliban delegation to Pakistan since the establishment of the TPC.

The FO had revealed a deal earlier that an Afghan Taliban delegation was to visit Islamabad to review progress under the stalled US-Taliban peace talks.

“Both countries are equally facing the consequences of instability in Afghanistan over the past 40 years,” Qureshi was reported as telling the delegation. He also said that Pakistan understands that war is not the solution to any problem.

Qureshi said that in order to establish peace in Afghanistan, negotiations were the only possible and “positive” option.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan has played the mediator’s role in the Afghan peace progress and emphasised that a peaceful Afghanistan was necessary for peace and stability in the entire region.

He expressed hope that all parties would resume dialogue and that durable peace and stability can be achieved without further setbacks.

Qureshi noted that the Afghan Taliban had praised Pakistan’s role in the peace process and the attendees were unanimous in agreeing to quickly restore talks.

He said Pakistan would continue to play a mediatory role with sincerity.

Taliban delegation’s visit

“Pakistan has extended an invitation to the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) in Doha for a visit,” the FO had said in a statement a day earlier.

Shortly before the announcement, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen had said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar, would lead the delegation during talks on important issues with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

Baradar was the most high-profile Afghan Taliban leader detained by Pakistan following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

He was released from prison last October and appointed to head the insurgent’s political office in a move seen as a tentative effort to aid the talks.

News of the visit came amidst reports that the special US envoy for the Afghan peace process, Zalmay Khalilzad, was also in Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Khalilzad had arrived in Islamabad for discussions with Pakistani civil and military leadership on reviving peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

A US official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said Khalilzad was not in Islamabad to resume the peace process.

Rather, the US peace envoy will follow up on discussions he held with Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, during the UN General Assembly session in New York.

It wasn’t immediately known if Khalilzad will meet with Taliban leader Baradar. The two men held several one-on-one meetings during the many rounds of negotiations held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.

Taliban officials have in recent days also visited Russia, China and Iran.

When asked whether there was any possibility of the insurgents meeting Khalilzad, Shaheen told AFP: “Why not? It depends on the Americans.”

The Taliban are still ready to sign the agreement which Khalilzad and Baradar had hashed out in Doha, he said.

“We stand for it. The Americans have backtracked and they will have to take the initiative.”

The Taliban have said that the Pakistan visit is the fourth leg of a tour that included Russia, China and Iran. A Taliban commander told AFP that Baradar and the 11 other militants will spend four days in Pakistan.

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