Pakistan rejects proposal for Taliban office on its soil

Pakistan rejects proposal for Taliban office on its soilISLAMABAD: Pakistan has turned down Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s request to allow Taliban to set up an office in the country, according to a media report today.

“Our role (in the Afghan peace process) will remain that of a facilitator and not a leader…allowing the Taliban to open an office in Pakistan will be contrary to our principled position,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying by an unnamed aide.

Instead, Pakistan and Afghanistan will explore options on an “urgent basis” to open a political office for the Afghan Taliban in Turkey or Saudi Arabia, the aide, who accompanied Sharif on an official visit to Kabul on Saturday, told The Express Tribune.

The aide indicated an “important development” regarding the Afghan Taliban office is expected in the next few weeks but did not give details.

The Taliban had set up a political office in Doha in June this year but the move angered Karzai. There was also a diplomatic row over the Taliban’s portrayal of the office as an embassy of their regime.

The differences led to the closure of the Doha office within 24 hours of its opening.

The aide to Sharif ruled out the possibility of the Doha process being revived. But the official held out hope that “a similar process could be initiated in another country”.

Pakistan is jockeying for a larger role in any peace deal in Afghanistan and recently released over 35 Afghan Taliban commanders to boost the reconciliation process. However, the move has not produced the expected results.

The aide claimed the Afghan High Peace Council delegation had a detailed meeting with former Afghan Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar recently and more meetings are planned in future.

“As the Prime Minister has stated very clearly, we have no favorites in Afghanistan. We will therefore encourage intra-Afghan dialogue,” he said.

During his talks with Karzai, Sharif underscored the need for an early peace deal in the neighboring war-torn country.

Pakistan believes any peace deal between the Taliban and other stakeholders in Afghanistan must be sealed before the drawdown of US and foreign forces next year. -PTI

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