PAKISTAN NEWS/ISLAMABAD: The Afghan president appealed for Pakistan’s help Thursday in negotiating a peace deal with Taliban militants ahead of a summit that will also include the leader of Iran.
The meetings in Islamabad come at a time when momentum for peace talks with the Taliban seems to be growing, even as all parties to a stuttering process marked by intense mistrust say that success in ending the 10-year war in Afghanistan is far from certain.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Thursday that talks among the U.S, the Afghan government and the Taliban had taken place in the past month. If true, it would mark a significant development because until now the Taliban had said they would only negotiate with the Americans, contending that Karzai was a puppet leader and that their movement was the legitimate ruler in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied Karzai’s comments that negotiations have already taken place. “The Taliban did not talk with the Kabul government anywhere,” he said in a statement.
Pakistan is regarded as a key player in any peace process because its historical ties with the Taliban and other insurgents mean Islamabad could help bring them to the table or be a spoiler. The Taliban leadership is widely believed to be based in Pakistan, and under some influence of the country’s security establishment.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been badly strained, but the meeting between Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari suggested that ties are improving. An Afghan statement said the leaders had agreed to restart a joint peace commission that was shelved after the assassination last year of Afghanistan’s envoy to Taliban peace talks in Kabul.
Afghan officials had accused Pakistan of playing a role in the killing — allegations it denied.
In a statement, Zardari said Karzai said at the meeting Thursday that Pakistan’s support “was critical to the success of the Afghan owned and Afghan led peace process” and that both countries should cooperate for peace.
Earlier, Ismail Qasemyar, the international relations adviser to the Afghan-government appointed council for talks with the Taliban, said Karzai would ask Zardari to “put positive and constructive pressure” over the Taliban./AP