Afghanistan at Crossroads: Sifting Durable Peace Out of Mistrusts

“Pakistan is giving it a genuine push. But the issue is too complex for Pakistan to push it alone”- Pakistani defense analyst.

PKONWEB — Pakistan on Saturday hosted a conference in scenic town of Bhurban to bring together more than 50 Afghan leaders, including politicians and tribal elders, minus representatives of the Afghan Taliban militants, who have been fighting for years to expel foreign forces and defeat the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Former president Hamid Karzai said he was unable to attend the conference but hoped Pakistan will continue its efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan

The Moscow-like intra-Afghan dialogue dubbed “Lahore Process” is aimed at developing a consensus ahead of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Islamabad. The Lahore Center for Peace and Research (LCPR) and the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) are organizing the event.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the inaugural session while President Arif Alvi will host a dinner for the senior Afghan political leaders.

Islamabad has been playing a proactive role in encouraging all stakeholders to come together, while asking warring parties to bury the hatchet and smoke the peace pipe.

“Pakistan is giving it a genuine push. But the issue is too complex for Pakistan to push it alone,” said a Pakistani defense analyst.

According to him, Pakistan’s arch-rival “India will keep Afghanistan in low boil, as it benefits India beyond any measure of return.”

PM Modi recently responded to PM Khan’s letter for talks, saying Delhi is ready but it’s important to build environment of trust.

The several Doha-based talks held between the US and the Afghan Taliban have reached certain milestones and created some space.

But there remains many I’s still to be dotted and T’s slashed before all parties can put the John Hangkock on dotted lines.

The United States has been pushing Pakistan to use its influence with the Taliban to open direct negotiations with the Kabul government, which the Taliban regard as an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime.

Qureshi, speaking at the session, said Islamabad wants a negotiated peace settlement between all sides as he said Pakistan continues to suffer security problems due to instability in Afghanistan.

“For far too long, the vicious circle of mistrust, often fed into by our common enemies, has affected our relationship. The blame-game has not helped either of us,” Qureshi said, according to his speech notes released by the foreign ministry.

“It is indispensable to move away from this negative paradigm. It is incumbent upon the leadership of the two countries to take practical steps to build mutual trust and confidence.”

Among the delegates was former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who earlier this year announced plans to contest the delayed presidential elections. Senators and members of Afghanistan’s parliament were also there.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who is due to visit Pakistan next week, is expected to meet top Pakistani civilian and military leaders in talks set to focus on the Afghanistan peace process.

Pakistan Army Chief, who is in London on Saturday said Pakistan is close to achieving durable peace and stability. The country has suffered in terms of human lives and economic losses while being host to over million Afghan refugees. Gen. Bajwa was speaking at the International Strategic Institute of Studies.

China on Thursday said that it had recently played host to a Taliban delegation as part of efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.