During president Ghani’s visit to Pakistan where he attended the Heart of Asia Conference, an understanding was reached among Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US to resume talks between Taliban and the Afghan government.
However, the details including the timeline of the talks have yet to be clarified.
But it is hoped during Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif’s visit to Kabul in coming day, some details of this suspended talks are finalised, Tolo News reported.
All sides, in their background discussions with Pakistan media, indicated that it could be a matter of weeks before the ‘Murree peace process’, which was derailed in July weeks after its start, would be back on track as ‘Murree-II’.
Unlike the earlier process in which Pakistan played the role of lead facilitator, the new initiative will be driven through a quadrilateral arrangement and a steering committee comprising representatives of the four countries will oversee the process.
According to a US diplomat, the resumption could take place “by the turn of the year” after Sharif’s trip.
The Afghans, meanwhile, expect that to happen in a fortnight’s time, whereas Pakistani officials say contacts with Taliban for reviving the process have already been initiated.
“Contacts have started. Everyone is working for creating a conducive environment for reinitiating the process,” a senior Pakistani official said.
The biggest challenge to the start of the new process is the fresh attacks by Taliban. Militants attacked Kandahar Airport almost at the same time as Ghani landed in Islamabad last Wednesday to attend the Heart of Asia Conference, while gunmen on Friday struck the Spanish Embassy compound.
Afghan High Peace Council denounced the latest attacks as “a slap in the face of peace”.
Pakistanis have been complaining about elements within Afghan establishment of sabotaging earlier peace attempts. But the resignation by Afghan intelligence (NDS) chief Rahmatullah Nabeel, believed to be a hawk on relations with Pakistan, would help ease some of the doubts. A US source said more reshuffling was expected in Kabul in coming days, Pakistan media reported.
Talking about the challenges, a Pakistani official said it would be wrong to single out a single spoiler in this effort, there are people on both sides (Afghan government and Taliban), who are opposed to the process. Therefore, he said, “all such elements should be sidelined”.
The US diplomat looked optimistic about the process of overcoming this challenge, but feared that attacks could impede the progress.
“The process would continue, but how quickly things evolve would depend on the situation on ground,” he maintained.
Pakistan media reports stated that it is also clear from conversations with Pakistani officials that they were not treating Taliban as a unified group. Taliban split following the disclosure of Mullah Omar’s death and the subsequent succession dispute. Instead of talking about contacting Taliban, Pakistani officials speak about groups.
Their expectation is that those militants, who participated in the first meeting on reconciliation dialogue on July 7, would return to the table. This implies that they are expecting Mullah Akhtar Mansour and Haqqani Network representatives to be joining the dialogue.
The resumption of the process, they say, would help draw a line between those opting for peace and those staying away.
“The irreconcilables would then be squeezed,” one Pakistani official said without elaborating what action Pakistan government intended to take against them.