ISLAMABAD - Afghan President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to arrive here today (Monday) on a day-long bilateral visit during which he will flag Kabul’s concerns regarding the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, seeking a greater role by Pakistan in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table, according to informed diplomatic sources.
This will be President Karzai’s first official visit to Pakistan after Mian Nawaz Sharif took charge as the prime minister in June. However, the two leaders have been in touch over the telephone and have spoken to each other on three occasions.
Karzai will be accompanied by top aides including his national security adviser and ministers of foreign affairs, finance and trade for the talks here that would also consider confidence-building measures to reduce the existing trust-deficit. In this context some joint ventures would be discussed between the two sides. Some members of the Afghan High Peace Council will also be travelling with Karzai.
Afghan President’s delegation-level talks with the prime minister will be followed by a press statement by the two leaders just prior to a luncheon hosted in his honour, it is learnt.
Release of more Taliban prisoners including top military commander Mullah Baradar, a close associate of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, and additional information about the Taliban prisoners in Pakistan will be sought by President Karzai, a senior Afghan diplomat told this correspondent.
It is believed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, was instrumental in convincing the Afghan President to undertake this visit as the latter had reservations and certain preconditions for coming. These pertained largely to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
The prime minister had sent Sartaj Aziz to Kabul last month to meet the Afghan president in a bid to allay his concerns and ease the tension between the two neighbouring countries that had been finding vent in hostile rhetoric.
According to an inside source, the subtext of Sartaj Aziz’s message to Karzai was: ‘We have to live together and you must come to discuss your concerns.’
In an interview with a private TV channel here this month, Sartaj Aziz had indicated that talks with the broad-based Afghan High Peace Council could take place in Istanbul. Articulating Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan, he categorically stated: “Our policy is of non-interference, we have no favourites and we support an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.”
The Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson said talks would focus on Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process, security issues including combating terrorism in the region, and improving trade and economic ties. “A practical reconciliation process with the Taliban group with support of Pakistan would be a key agenda item,” he noted.
Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told The Nation that talks would primarily cover bilateral matters ranging from the Afghan peace and reconciliation process to commerce and transit trade and reconstruction issues as well as the post-2014 regional situation after drawdown of Nato/Isaf forces in Afghanistan.
He hoped that President Karzai’s visit would ease tensions and help remove irritants that had strained bilateral ties for the past six months. Also that it paves way for enhanced cooperation in diverse areas.
Karzai was quoted as saying Saturday: “We hope the visit will bear good results with regard to peace negotiations and security of Afghanistan.”