BY HAMZA AMEER
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad made a day-long visit to Pakistan on Monday to hold important meetings with the Pakistani military and civilian leadership to pave the way forward in the Afghan peace process.
During his stay in Islamabad, Khalilzad met Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.
Khalilzad appreciated Pakistan’s “sincere and unconditional support” for Afghan peace, adding that the peace process would not have been possible without Islamabad’s support.
Khalilzad was accompanied by a three-member delegation of senior US officials. During the meeting, Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan was also present.
“All elements of national power are united towards making that vision a reality to ensure long-awaited peace, progress, and prosperity in the region”, stated an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release quoting the Pakistan Army Chief.
The Pakistani side further elaborated on its proposed four-pronged strategy which includes:
* Continuation of support to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process while respecting the consensus that emerges from intra-Afghan negotiations.
* Ensuring that Afghanistan neither witnesses the violent days of the past nor becomes a space for elements who would harm others beyond its borders.
* Deepening and sustaining economic development.
* Ensuring a well-resourced, time-bound return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honor.
Interestingly, Khalilzad did not meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan or Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and only had a meeting with the Pakistan Army Chief and Ambassador Sadiq.
It is believed that the quick trip of Khalilzad to Pakistan is to seek Islamabad’s help to press the Taliban and compel them to announce a long-term ceasefire during the first round of talks in Doha.
The Afghan government has been asking for a long-term ceasefire to the Taliban and has kept this point on top of its agenda during the ongoing talks in Doha. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the peace process and negotiating team from the Afghan government has even offered release of more prisoners and jailed fighters of the Taliban in exchange for a long-term ceasefire by the Taliban.
However, the Taliban have not yet announced a truce as they came to the negotiating table.
“The presence of government negotiators at the talks is aimed at achieving a ceasefire, ending the violence and ensuring lasting peace and stability in the country”, said Sediq Seddiqi, Afghan presidential spokesperson.