Afghan leader visits Pakistan to discuss peace

KABUL: A top Afghan politician will travel to Pakistan on Monday to strengthen bilateral ties and discuss the ongoing peace process with the Taliban, officials said on Sunday.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who is chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, lawmakers, and “could hold talks with military leaders” during his three-day visit to Pakistan.

“The goal of the trip is to seek regional cooperation for the strengthening of the peace process, bilateral relations, regional consensus and requesting cooperation and assistance to bear fruit for peace and cease aid for terroristic groups,” Faraidoon Khawzoon, Abdullah’s spokesman, said.

The visit follows an invitation from Khan and takes place amid ongoing intra-Afghan talks in Doha.

Talks between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators began on Sept. 12, but they have failed to make headway due to a lack of consensus on the agenda and terms and conditions for the agreement.

Khawzoon said Abdullah’s trip had “no link with the stalemate in the talks,” which were initially set to take place in March this year based on a historic peace deal that was signed between the US and the Taliban.

The February accord is expected to lead to the complete withdrawal of US-led foreign troops from Afghanistan by next spring.

Experts said that there was more to Abdullah’s Pakistan visit than met the eye.

Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan government adviser, said that with US President Donald Trump pushing for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, Pakistan wanted to play a positive role in ensuring stability in Afghanistan so that the millions of refugees living on its soil could return home.

“With every deadlock in peace talks such as the current one in Qatar, Pakistan gets a chance to exhibit its influence on Afghan affairs if it can reason (with) the Taliban for some compromise,” he told Arab News.

He added that Islamabad was also worried about the role and impact of “peace spoilers” on the Qatar talks.

“The spoilers, supported by Pakistan’s foes, might take the current Doha talks off its course … Therefore, Pakistan advises everyone to stay the course and Pakistan will work in time toward stability in Afghanistan with a friendly government in Kabul.”

Kabul negotiators at the Qatar talks insist that the Taliban must announce a cease-fire before signing any agreement, while the Taliban say that the issue can be included in the agenda. 

Both parties have yet to draw up a framework for the discussions before engaging in serious talks to end decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

Abdullah’s visit comes after a call between Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday when the Pakistani leader urged all Afghan stakeholders to seize the “historic opportunity” and work toward an inclusive and comprehensive political agreement.

He added that Pakistan would fully support the decisions made by the Afghan people regarding their future.

“In his call, Prime Minister Khan stressed that his country supports a cease-fire for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” Ghani’s office said on Friday. “President Ghani extended an invitation to the prime minister for a visit to Afghanistan which was accepted by the prime minister.”

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