Olive branch from Taliban

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IN a move that is likely to clear the major hurdle in the way of resumption of US-Taliban peace talks, the latter has expressed willingness to reduce violence in Afghanistan. In a video message shared from the official Instagram account of the Foreign Office, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi described the development a step towards a peace agreement, adding that Pakistan had played a responsible part in ensuring peace prevailed in the region.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating a peace deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead”, citing Taliban violence. Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US. In this backdrop, Pakistan has once again demonstrated its sincerity for peaceful settlement of the 18 year old conflict in Afghanistan by persuading Taliban to ‘reduce’ violence. Taliban were understandably not in favour of total ceasefire as they wanted to talk to Americans from a position of strength and not surrender to get a better deal. Therefore, their willingness to reduce violence, which could mean limited ceasefire, has the potential to bring the two sides closer for a peace deal, which, in turn would pave the way for much-needed and crucial intra-Afghan dialogue to determine future of the country. Taliban’s readiness for ceasefire and talks surely amounts to extension of an olive branch as taking advantage of the lull in peace dialogue, major exercise of holding of Afghan presidential election was completed despite serious reservations by Taliban in this regard. In fact, there should be no pre-conditions for talks as the process itself is meant to sort out differences but Taliban’s willingness for ceasefire is a concrete evidence of commitment of Taliban to the cause of peace in their country and Pakistan’s oft-repeated resolve to contribute whatever it can to further the peace process. However, actual realization of a deal depends much on the sincerity and attitude of the United States especially its insistence on keeping some bases and forces in Afghanistan for an unspecified period. This would be an extension of continued occupation of the country and a blot on its sovereignty. The US is misusing similar facilities in Iraq as it did in the case of killing an Iranian General in a drone strike and its continued military presence would mean constant threat to the internal stability of Afghanistan and threat to peace and security of the entire region.