Saturday, June 15, 2024

Peace talks should involve Pakistan: Karzai


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KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has hinted he has lost hope in pursuing peace talks with the Taliban and said Afghanistan should be negotiating peace with Pakistan instead.

Karzai was speaking in a meeting with senior religious leaders less than two weeks after the assassination of former President and government peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani.

”The people of Afghanistan ask me: ‘Mr President who are you negotiating with, who is the other side of the peace talks?’ I have no answer except to say that my partner, or the other side of the peace talks, is Pakistan,” he said in a video of the Friday meeting released by the presidential palace.

Rabbani was chairman of the High Peace Council, formed by Karzai in October last year to reach out to the Taliban.

He was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a reconciliation envoy from the Taliban’s leadership council, named the Quetta Shura after the Pakistani city where it is believed to be based.

But Karzai in the meeting questioned whether the Taliban even had a functioning leadership.

”I can’t find (leader) Mullah Omar, where is he? I can’t find the Taliban shura, where is that shura?”

”Somebody came and introduced himself as a messenger of peace, and killed, no questions, so who should we speak with? To Pakistan.”

Many Afghans have long accused Pakistan and its main spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of backing insurgent groups to further Islamabad’s own interests, which Pakistan denies.

But Afghanistan’s politicians and spies say they have firm evidence of some kind of Pakistani link to Rabbani’s killing.

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Saturday that it had handed Pakistan evidence that the Taliban’s leadership plotted Rabbani’s killing on Pakistani soil.

The interior minister, giving testimony in parliament, also said the ISI played a role in the assassination.

Karzai himself has suggested there was a Pakistani link to the killing, and said Afghanistan would push for an international investigation if Islamabad was not forthcoming.

”Our intelligence information shows that there is a connection in Quetta … so we want your (Pakistan’s) co-operation in this regard,” he said in an interview with Afghanistan’s Noor television station,.

A spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, Tehmina Janjua, said Pakistan had not received any information about the killing but Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had promised to cooperate.

Top US officials have also accused Pakistan of supporting insurgent groups active in Afghanistan following a 20-hour attack on diplomatic targets in Kabul earlier this month.

The outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, testified before the U.S. Senate last week that the Taliban-linked Haqqani network believed to be behind the siege was a ”veritable arm” of the ISI. Both Pakistan and the Taliban have strongly rejected his claim.

On the eve of a key conference on Afghanistan in Istanbul on Wednesday, Pakistan on Tuesday said the world community should focus on implementing existing mechanisms for regional peace and security instead of floating proposals for creating a new security structure for the war-torn country.

Reacting to proposals being floated by some countries to create a new security structure for Afghanistan as the US prepares to pull out its troops from there, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said there was no dearth of mechanisms in the region.

“We have so many mechanisms, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in which Pakistan has an observer’s status, SAARC and Economic Cooperation Organisation,” Khar, who will represent Pakistan in the Conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday, told state-run APP news agency in Istanbul.

Instead of proposing new mechanisms, efforts should be made to implement the existing mechanisms for peace, security and development in the region, she said. Any new structure would not benefit Afghanistan and any process for solving the Afghan problem should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, she said.

Neighbouring countries should have only a supportive role in ensuring the peace, security and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and the Istanbul Conference would help further this objective, she contended. Khar said the meeting will lead to various peace processes, including the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan next month and the Chicago Conference. (Agencies)

She expressed confidence that the meeting in Istanbul will give confidence to Afghanistan that all important players are supporting its initiatives for peace and stability.

The meeting is being attended by the immediate and extended neighbours of Afghanistan and important world players, including India. Khar said Pakistan will support all initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting the sovereignty of Afghanistan. She said the Afghans themselves should decide their future.

“Being an important neighbour, Pakistan would support efforts in this regard,” she added. Responding to a question about India’s inclusion in the Istanbul Conference, Khar said all countries that can help promote peace in Afghanistan are welcome and Pakistan has no problem with any country.

“Pakistan is an important and responsible state committed to peace and security in Afghanistan,” she said. Asked about the inclusion of “Afghan resistance forces” in the peace process, she said it was for Afghanistan, the Afghan people and the government to decide this issue.


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