Pakistan seeks political options for Afghan peace

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Islamabad, May 17 (IANS) As senior officials of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group gear up to meet here to discuss prospects for the Afghan peace process, Islamabad has expressed its belief that political negotiation was still the best option to find a solution to the protracted problem.

The meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US, on Wednesday, is seen as vitally important as Kabul is now pushing for action against the Taliban after they have publicly refused to come to the negotiating table and have stepped up attacks.

Kabul’s top envoy in Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal, has suggested to the QCG group to declare the Taliban situation as “irreconcilable”.

The QCG, launched in December for “Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan”, is now in a fix over the divergence of opinion within the group on how to deal with the Taliban.

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There is no doubt the US and its NATO allies failed to solve the problem through military operations over the past 14 years, despite the presence of nearly 160,000 troops with full military power. More Afghans will surely die if this war continues.

The Afghan government has genuine concerns about the Taliban’s violence as it would be very hard for any government to sit in negotiations with armed opponents if their security forces and the people are being brutally killed.

Although the government was under pressure to change its policy of reconciliation with the Taliban, political options should not be totally rejected, observers have maintained.

A vast majority in Afghanistan has thrown its weight behind the government policy to hold intra-Afghan dialogue with another resistance movement, Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan.

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Both sides have reported progress in the talks and a peace treaty is most likely to be signed in weeks that could put some pressure on the Taliban to review their war policy.

If the Taliban have a political office in Qatar, they should not hesitate to use this option, political sources close to the matter have urged.

Pakistan Foreign Affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz said last week that Islamabad has been impressing upon Washington and Kabul that the reconciliation process needs to be given a fair chance and more time.

Aziz said irreconcilable elements can be targeted after concerted negotiation efforts have failed.

In view of different approaches, the upcoming meeting of the QCG has assumed a great deal of importance in developing a consensus on how to proceed as all member countries have a shared responsibility. Diplomats will mainly focus on the roadmap that was agreed upon in the last QCG round held in Kabul in February.

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Zakhilwal insists the roadmap was precisely about the steps that the QCG needed to take in their respective or relevant domains, both during peace talks if they began and also if the Taliban refused to join the talks.

“Now that the Taliban has publicly refused to join the talks and opted for more violence, the second scenario is applicable,” Zakhilwal said in Islamabad on Monday.

Despite different approaches, the four-nation process is still the best available option to be used to find a political solution to the Afghan problem, observers aver.



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