Bajwa emerges peacemaker after surprise landing in Kabul

New Delhi, May 11: Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is in Kabul to discuss the Afghan peace process with all stakeholders.

He arrived unannounced at a time of heightened uncertainty in a region where violence has surged amid US intent to pull out all troops from Afghanistan. According to sources, Bajwa is going to meet Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders in Kabul.

The sources said that Pakistani security officials have approached the Afghan Taliban leadership in Doha and made it clear to them that their refusal to participate in the Istanbul Conference was a big blow to the Afghan Peace Process, and if they do not show some flexibility, they will have to face the consequences.

It is believed that few senior Taliban leaders of the negotiating team are already in Pakistan to seek ‘guidance’ from their leadership who are in Pakistan.

‘Where are stalemate in talks, they (Taliban) say that we are going to consult our elders. In reality their elders are the ISI and Pakistani army,’ said the first vice president of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh.

Afghan President Ghani, after the US decision to withdraw its troops, had said, ‘the withdrawal has forced them to make a choice. Taliban and their patrons in Pakistan, will they become credible stakeholders, or will they foster more chaos and violence? If the Taliban choose the latter path, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) will fight them. And if the Taliban still refuse to negotiate, they will be choosing the peace of the grave.’ He further said, ‘The negotiations would confront difficult issues, such as whether and how the Taliban would end their relationship with Pakistan, which provides them with support for logistics, finances, and recruitment.’

Bajwa’s visit has come at the time when Afghanistan is in mourning. The death toll in multiple blasts outside a girls’ school in Kabul on Saturday afternoon rose to 63, relatives of victims and sources said, adding that more than 150 others were wounded in the incident. President Ghani has declared Tuesday a national day of mourning for the victims of the Kabul and Logar bombings, which killed scores of students.

Though no group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack on school in Kabul and Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denied the insurgent group’s involvement and condemned the incident. But the Afghan president Ghani has blamed the Taliban for the attack. Ghani said that ‘these groups’ – sometimes under the Taliban name and sometimes under the Daesh name show up with such cruel attacks making it plain they want to prevent the education of Afghan children and weaken the people’s trust.

Meanwhile, after two days of the incident, on Monday, the Taliban has declared a three-day ceasefire across Afghanistan to mark this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The ceasefire announcement comes as the United States continues to pull out its last 2,500 troops 20 years after it invaded the country and removed the Taliban from power. US-led efforts to bring peace seem to have faltered as talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have hardly progressed.

The Afghan government said in a press release that ‘temporary ceasefires’ are not a permanent solution to the country’s problems.’ Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, called on Taliban to resume talks, announce ‘a permanent ceasefire, end the war and bloodshed, and find a political solution that is just, dignified and acceptable for all parties.’

Pakistan denounced the terrorist act and extended sympathies to the Afghan government and the aggrieved families.

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with