THERE seems to be renewed push for somewhat stalled Afghan peace process as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, accompanied by the ISI Chief Lt. General Faiz Hameed, paid a day-long visit to Kabul and held wide-ranging talks with both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.
The talks were reportedly brokered by General Sir Nicholas Patrick Carter, UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff, who earlier had extensive discussions with the Army Chief in Rawalpindi.
The visit of the military leadership and talks with top Afghan leaders in Kabul is yet another manifestation of Pakistan’s firm and sincere resolve to help facilitate peaceful resolution of the longstanding Afghan conflict through intra-Afghan dialogue.
In fact, Pakistan is the champion of the idea of the peaceful resolution of the Afghan issue as it invested both time and energy in persuading the United States and Kabul Government that there is no military solution to the problem and that national reconciliation was the only option for untying the complicated knot.
In line with this approach, Pakistan extended best of its cooperation and delivered Afghan Taliban on the negotiating table, leading to accords in black and white between the United States and Taliban on the one hand and Kabul Government and Taliban on the other hand.
However, hiccups are emerging in the way of achieving further progress mainly because of lack of trust between the Government and Taliban and violation of commitments that both sides made in the agreement.
The latest development comes in the backdrop of accusatory statements emanating from Kabul, which often tries to shift blame of its own follies on Pakistan despite repeated attempts made by Islamabad to facilitate the peace process in a meaningful way.
Gen Bajwa reiterated that a peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful region in general and a peaceful Pakistan in particular, and stated, “We will always support ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process’ based on mutual consensus of all the stakeholders.”
The role of Pakistan was indirectly appreciated by Kabul when Dr Abdullah Abdullah, in a tweet after meeting with the COAS, stated that General Bajwa assured him of Pakistan support for an inclusive power-sharing arrangement and elections as a right of Afghans to self-determination.
Being head of the High Council for National Reconciliation his remarks that there was no military solution to the Afghan crisis, and that there was need to restart meaningful talks between the Afghan government and Taliban aimed at an inclusive and comprehensive political settlement assumes greater significance.
We hope the understanding reached during the Kabul visit would form the basis for concrete progress towards restarting of the peace process despite surge in fighting amidst withdrawal of foreign troops, which is understandable as the two sides are trying to consolidate and expand their gains to use them as leverage on the negotiating table.
There is also a need for the Afghan Government leaders to review their strategy towards Pakistan as on the one hand they never get tired of speaking about respect for Afghan sovereignty but on the other hand they find fault with initiatives of Pakistan that are aimed at formalizing international borders through projects like border management.