Exclusive to The Nation
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s proactive facilitation in the Afghan reconciliation process, more information on Taliban prisoners and release of top Taliban military commander Mullah Baradar will be high on Kabul’s agenda during President Hamid Karzai’s bilateral visit here later this month.
This information surfaced in an exclusive interview with Afghan Ambassador to Islamabad, Umer Daudzai, here on Monday when he was asked by this correspondent about the visit’s agenda and expectations from it.
Sharing the Kabul perspective, he noted: “President Karzai would reiterate Afghanistan’s long-standing request to Pakistan to use its influence and contacts with the Taliban to persuade them to come to the negotiating table with the Afghan High Peace Council.”
Ambassador Daudzai underlined that it had been more than a year since the then prime minister made a firm commitment to facilitate such a dialogue, but it had not been followed through. He specifically referred to former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani’s February 25, 2012 statement, issued a week after President Karzai concluded a visit to Pakistan. He added: “We expect the government of Pakistan to fulfil its commitment to bring the Taliban representatives to the negotiating table and facilitate the Afghan peace process.”
On the prospects of the derailed Doha process and likely venue of future peace talks with the Taliban, the Afghan ambassador emphasised: “Location is not important, what is important is Pakistan’s active participation in the dialogue process.” Pakistan’s facilitation and cooperation in this context were vital, he added, in a hint that it did not matter whether talks were held in Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
Daudzai also mentioned the issue of release of the Taliban prisoners, and said it would be flagged by President Karzai during his visit here. He disclosed that while Pakistan had released 26 Afghan prisoners to date, the release of key Taliban leader Mullah Baradar is still awaited.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Taliban military commander and head of Taliban Quetta Shura was arrested from an undisclosed location in Pakistan in 2010, in a joint military operation with the CIA.
Apparently, the release of the 26 Taliban prisoners took place late last year in response to the demand of the Afghan High Peace Council. The nearly 80-member broad-based peace council has the sanction to use possible channels for establishing contact with the Taliban for direct dialogue.
Kabul had also requested Islamabad to share more information on the Taliban prisoners held in Pakistan and the Afghan president is to again raise this question during his talks here, Ambassador Daudzai maintained. Kabul’s insistence on release of these Afghan Taliban prisoners is linked to its belief that they could prove to be useful in the Afghan reconciliation process.