QCG to enlist ulema’s help to bring Afghan Taliban to negotiating table

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KARACHI: The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has agreed on a ‘three-step political process’ in a bid to resurrect a moribund peace initiative in Afghanistan, Daily Express has learnt from top government sources in Islamabad.

The quartet – which consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States – has also agreed to enlist help from influential clerics and religious scholars to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. The QCG met in Oman’s capital Muscat earlier this month but didn’t release any statement, leading observers to believe that the session could not make any breakthrough in its efforts to revive the Afghan peace process. It was the sixth meeting of the quartet which was convened after a hiatus of more than a year.

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“The political process will involve three steps: communication, ceasefire, and peace talks,” a source told Daily Express. “The QCG decided in its meeting on October 16 to form committees and assigned them these tasks.” Interestingly, the Afghan Taliban had stayed away from the Muscat conclave, saying neither they had been invited nor would they participate in the meeting. The insurgent group says it would not negotiate until the US-led foreign forces pulled out of Afghanistan. It also seeks official recognition for its “political office” in Doha, Qatar, which it wants to use as a diplomatic mission.

According to sources, Islamabad made it clear during the Muscat meeting that dialogue was the only way to resolve the Afghan conundrum and to bring peace in the strife-torn country. Islamabad also reiterated its commitment to an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process.

However, the strategy US President Donald Trump announced in August, this year, seeks a military victory in Afghanistan. A second source said the QCG would convene another meeting soon where it would ponder the Taliban’s preconditions for peace talks. Moreover, the source added that the QCG’s efforts to reach out to the Taliban would be kept away from the media spotlight. A formal announcement would only be made if the Taliban responded positively to peace overtures, according to the source.

“However, if the quartet fails to convince the Taliban to sit across the table with Afghan government officials, then the QCG would form a committee and the insurgents would be asked to do the same for indirect talks,” the source told Daily Express. “The two committees would meet at a neutral venue.” A third source said China and Pakistan were making all-out efforts for the revival of Afghan peace talks.

Pakistan has made it clear to the Trump administration in recent meetings that it would help in the Afghan reconciliation process only if its legit concerns vis-à-vis US policy for Afghanistan were addressed. Trump’s Afghan strategy envisages a greater role for India, Pakistan’s arch rival, in Afghanistan – something that is not acceptable to Islamabad and the same has been conveyed to top US officials in recent meetings. Trump’s aides are said to have assured Pakistani officials that their fears and concerns would be addressed.

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The strain in Pakistan-US officials set off by Trump’s unsavoury criticism of Pakistan apparently eased after Pakistan Army earlier this month rescued a Canadian-American couple and their three children from the Taliban-allied Haqqani network in Kurram Agency soon after they crossed over from neighbouring Afghanistan.

President Trump praised Pakistan for the safe rescue of the hostages which, according to him, would mark the dawn of new relationship between the two countries.

 

The post QCG to enlist ulema’s help to bring Afghan Taliban to negotiating table appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Source: Tribune News | QCG to enlist ulema’s help to bring Afghan Taliban to negotiating table

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