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Pakistan backs Afghan-led peace process, Nawaz tells Afghans

22 November, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday said Pakistan supports an Afghan-led peace process and will continue to extend all possible facilitation to the reconciliation process.

Talking to a delegation of Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) headed by Chairman Salahuddin Rabani at the Prime Minister's House, he reiterated the importance that Pakistan attaches to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the high-ranking delegation from Kabul tasked with pushing forward Afghanistan's peace process, according to a statement from his office.

The three-member group representing the High Peace Council (HPC) arrived in Pakistan a day earlier on a mission that, according to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was meant to include a meeting with Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's former deputy freed from jail in September. Reports that the meeting had taken place could not be confirmed. Nawaz told the group: "Pakistan has always supported a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan and... Pakistan is playing a constructive and positive role to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process," according to a statement released by his office.

The statement said that the visiting delegation thanked the prime minister for his efforts. A member of the group earlier told AFP that the present visit and meetings had been agreed during last month's summit between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Britain in London. The group was headed by Salahuddin Rabbani, son of slain former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, and also comprised its secretary general Masoom Stanekzai and Asadullah Wafa. A statement from the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the end of October said: "It was agreed on that a High Peace Council delegation will visit Pakistan and meet with Mullah Baradar in the near future."

Baradar was arrested in 2010 but freed from jail in Pakistan in September as part of efforts to boost Afghanistan's peace process. Since his "release" it appears he has been kept under house arrest by Pakistani authorities. Baradar has been touted by some as an influential Taliban voice who could persuade the militants to end the bloody insurgency they have waged since being ousted from power in 2001. The High Peace Council is the Afghan body charged with opening negotiations with Taliban insurgents as US-led NATO forces prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of next year.

British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in London last month to discuss ways to kickstart the stalled process. Karzai formed the Afghan High Peace Council in 2010 to pursue a negotiated peace with the Taliban, who have been leading an insurgency since being ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001. Baradar is a long-time friend of the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Afghanistan believes he is still powerful enough to persuade the insurgents to lay down their weapons and make peace.

He was the Taliban's deputy leader and one of their most influential commanders until he was arrested in Pakistan in 2010. Pakistan announced his release last month but Baradar remains in the country under close supervision.

End.

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