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Pakistan is aiming for peace in Afghanistan: Sartaj Aziz

06 April, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is keeping itself engaged with all major processes aiming for peace in Afghanistan and isn’t committing itself to any one particular initiative.

This was the gist of an in-camera briefing by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee on relations with Afghanistan that are currently being repaired after suffering a massive rupture in the aftermath of the uptick in terrorist violence in February that was blamed on sanctuaries on Afghan soil, according to the account of the meeting shared by a couple of participants.

Mr Aziz, according to the participants, told the NA panel that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) — which included the US, China and Afghanistan in addition to Pakistan — was still alive and efforts were afoot to revitalise it.

The QCG has been dormant since Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansoor Akhtar was killed in a drone attack on Pakistani soil last year. It was assumed by the observers of the Afghan conflict that the QCG process had outlived its usefulness as none of the partners looked interested in taking it forward. During the few months QCG remained active, it was able to draw up a roadmap, but failed to bring the Taliban to talks.

Efforts afoot to revive Quadrilateral Coordination Group, NA panel on foreign affairs told
Pakistan has in the meantime got itself also increasingly involved with the Russian-led initiative. The process that started with a meeting between officials of Russia, China and Pakistan first grew to six parties and is now set to expand to a 12-country forum. The US was not involved in the process at the initial stages, but it has now decided to stay away from the meeting of 12 countries, being held in Moscow on April 14, to which it had been invited. Pakistan is participating in the meeting. Pakistani participation in the Russia-led initiative created an impression that Pakistan may desire to work on an Afghan strategy independent of the US.

During his briefing, Mr Aziz nevertheless placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of the emerging regi­onal initiative led by Russia, which now also involves the Central Asian states.

“Pakistan remained committed to continued efforts for facilitating an Afghan-owned Afghan-led peace process,” Mr Aziz told the panel, adding that there was need for focused efforts for a politically negotiated settlement for a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

One of the reasons behind this lack of clarity on Pak­istan’s part is that the US is yet to finalise its Afghan policy. Mr Aziz too referred to US government still firming up its Afghan policy.

About the enga­gement with Afghanistan, the advi­ser said the understanding reached during his meeting with Afghan National Secu­rity Adviser Hanif Atmar provided an opportunity for engagement to address the issues of counter-terrorism and border management.

As per the understanding reached in London, both sides were to develop a framework for interaction at multiple levels — military, intelligence, security and political. The process was to take off with a meeting of the local field commanders, which would investigate recent border incidents. The progress towards materialising of the understanding was being hampered by mistrust between the two countries. But in a first tentative step towards that arrangement Commander of Southern Command Lt Gen Aamir Riaz and Afghan National Army’s 205 Corps Com­mander Lt Gen Daud Shah Wafadar spoke over hotline.

National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Jan­jua, meanwhile, talking to a delegation of Afghan media stressed the need for both countries to work together at all levels to defeat terrorism and to establish a joint framework to address each others’ concerns.

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