Pakistan hopes China-led talks in Kabul will be successful

| Qureshi says foreign policy on positive trajectory

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is hopeful that China-led trilateral dialogue this weekend to resolve Afghanistan issue will be successful, officials said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will fly to Kabul on December 15 for reconciliation talks led by China. Pakistan and Afghanistan will participate in the talks aimed at reconciling with Taliban and other groups.

Senior officials at foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was going into the talks with optimism as Pakistan and China were both stakeholders in the regional peace.

One official said: “We welcome China’s efforts for peace and will be part of the dialogue process. We are hopeful that it (the dialogue process) will be a success. We also support the United States’ proposal to hold talks with the Taliban for peace.”

Another official said that the US was not in favour of going into the dialogue process led by China but Pakistan ‘differed’ with the idea. “As part of our policy, we support all peace efforts. With China, we cannot say no. we are old friends,” he added.

Pakistan has already told the US that China’s role in Afghan peace would not undermine that of the US. Islamabad has been trying to convince Washington that Beijing was naturally a stakeholder in the regional peace.

The December 15 meeting will be attended by Qureshi, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The meeting will seek to advance the ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan aimed at catalysing an end to the 17-year invasion of the country by US troops.

Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan. “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” the Foreign Office said in response to the US President Donald Trump’s letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan was among the countries that met in Geneva, Switzerland on November 27 on Afghan reforms and peace prospects in the region. During the 2-day conference, Afghan leaders and international diplomats evaluated whether strategies and aid offered to Afghanistan were helping resolve the quagmire created by the prolonged war, paving way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Qureshi had also visited Kabul in September this year to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other senior officials, in what was his maiden trip to any country after assuming office as foreign minister.

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan made it clear to the US that Pakistan was not their ‘hired gun’ anymore.  Khan reiterated that there were no sanctuaries of Taliban in Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Qureshi later said that Pakistan was always keen to have China as part of efforts for the Afghan peace process, adding that he was glad that China was playing a more active role for Afghan development and reconstruction.

Last month, Trump said in an interview that Pakistan did not ‘do a damn thing’ for the United States despite receiving billions of dollars in US aid, adding that Pakistani officials knew about former Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s location before his killing by US troops in a 2011 raid inside Pakistan.

PM Khan hit back at Trump, saying that the US should not blame Pakistan for its failings in Afghanistan. Later, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that he had formed a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but warned that implementation of any deal would take at least five years.

On Sunday, FM Qureshi said that Pakistan was committed to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan and will continue to play a positive role in bringing peace and stability in the war-torn country. He said that it was the robustness of Pakistan’s foreign policy that the US requested for assistance in Afghan issue.

He underscored that Islamabad’s foreign policy was on a positive trajectory based on national interest and self-reliance. The foreign minister said that Pakistan was committed to Afghan peace process.

Pakistan is the most interested party to resolve the Afghanistan issue because it is directly affected by instability in the neighbouring country. Last month, the Afghan refugees’ stay in Pakistan was extended amid severe weather.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees decided to suspend repatriation process of Afghan refugees in Pakistan for a few months due to cold weather. The repatriation process has been halted from December 1 till February 28 next year due to drop in temperature and severe cold.

Officials suggest that nearly 1.4 million refugees had been issued ‘Proof of Registration’ cards and were being managed by the UNHCR. There were 880,000 refugees who had been issued Afghan citizenship cards under the National Action Plan to register undocumented persons living in Pakistan.

The United Nations refugee agency and local officials say that there were 2.7 million Afghans, including 1.5 million registered as refugees, in Pakistan.

The displaced families have fled decades of conflict, ethnic and religious persecution, poverty and economic hardships in turmoil-hit Afghanistan. Pakistan is actively supporting the Afghan peace efforts by three world powers - the US, China and Russia.

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