Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said yesterday said that Pakistan was closely involved in the process that led to the announcement of the upcoming peace deal between the United States and Afghanistan.
Calling the announcement of the peace deal a “historic breakthrough”, he said that Pakistan had helped in constructing a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.
“When US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad recently, both the prime minister and I held detailed meetings with him regarding the peace process. We constructed a roadmap to peace,” said Qureshi.
“I also told Khalilzad that the US and its allies around the region must remain wary of certain elements who benefit from continued fighting [in Afghanistan]. I warned him that these elements are bent on destroying the progress of our peace efforts,” the minister said.
In a statement released by the Foreign Office, Qureshi pointed out that the Afghan peace process is a complex one and that there is no military solution to the conflict.
“The world must understand that the solution to Afghan conflict will only come through a political settlement based on diplomatic negotiations,” the minister said.
He also noted in his statement that when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Pakistan for his maiden visit last year, relations between the two countries were at its lowest ebb.
“Pompeo told me that the pathway to fixing relations between Pakistan and US came through Kabul. Now I would like to remind him that we have fulfilled all our promises,” Qureshi said. “Not only did we build a peace team, but we also played our role in ensuring that the negotiations were successful.”
The minister said that the Afghan government should think about the future of its country and double its efforts to restore peace.
Qureshi also urged the Afghan government to shun partisan domestic politics to ensure lasting peace in the country.
“The deal will be signed in the presence of Pakistan because it was impossible for the deal to come through without our efforts. After February, we will try to build a delegation to promote intra-Afghan peace process and we have also decided when and how those talks will take place,” he said. “Pakistan has played its role in the peace process with wholeheartedness and honesty, and it is now incumbent upon the Afghan government to do the same.”
Qureshi added it was not easy to bring Taliban to the table for negotiations, “which is why the entire world, including the US, is appreciating Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process”.
“The world knows that the two sides have been fighting for over 19 years. After US President Donald Trump cancelled the peace process in a single tweet following a death [of a US soldier], it was Pakistan who convinced the US to restart negotiations.”
On Friday, the United States and the Taliban announced that they are set to sign a historic agreement in Doha on February 29 that would pave the way to ending America’s longest war.
The announcement came hours after Afghanistan said a week-long partial truce across the country would kick off this weekend.
If the partial truce goes ahead, it would mark a historic step in more than 18 years of conflict in Afghanistan.
The US has been in talks with the Taliban for more than a year to secure a deal in which it would pull out thousands of troops in return for Taliban security guarantees and commitments.
A reduction in violence would show the Taliban can control their forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of any signing, which would see the Pentagon withdraw about half of the 12,000- 13,000 troops currently in Afghanistan.
The US and the Taliban have been tantalisingly close to a deal before, only to see Trump nix it in September of last year at the 11th hour amid continued insurgent violence.
In Afghanistan, the partial truce appeared to be holding yesterday, with only isolated attacks threatening to mar a process that drew jubilant civilians across the shattered country onto streets to celebrate.
“It is the first morning that I go out without the fear of being killed by a bomb or suicide bomber. I hope it continues forever,” Kabul taxi driver Habib Ullah said, while in other parts of the country people danced in the streets after the truce kicked in at midnight.
However in Balkh province in the north, Taliban fighters attacked a district headquarters near the provincial capital of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing two Afghan soldiers, a local official told AFP.
There were also reports of a separate incident in central Uruzgan province.
General Scott Miller, who leads US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in Afghanistan, did not directly address those incidents, but stressed that Western forces would continually monitor the situation.
“We’ve stopped our offensive operations as part of our obligations,” he told reporters.
In the event of any breaches of the truce, Miller said the US would communicate with the Taliban through various channels set up in Doha, where the insurgents have a political office.
“As more days go on, we will have a better understanding of what trends are,” Miller said. “Very clearly this is a conditional effort, this is a trial period.”
The UN’s Afghanistan mission said yesterday that more than 10,000 people had been killed or wounded in the war in 2019 alone.
In Kandahar in the south, considered the Taliban heartland, and the eastern province of Jalalabad, dozens of Afghans could be seen dancing the attan – a traditional Pashtun dance – in the streets in celebration overnight.
In Kabul, which for years now has been one of the deadliest places in the country for civilians, those who spoke to AFP were more wary.
Shopkeeper Emamuddin, who like many Afghans goes by one name, said Afghans want peace “whatever it takes”.
“A week of no violence will pass in a blink of the eye,” he said. “They should find a long-lasting solution for this country’s problem.”
Details of how exactly the reduction in violence will work have remained scant.
The US has said there is an “understanding” for a “significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan”, while Afghan security forces will remain “on active defence status” during the week.
Highlighting the partial nature of the truce, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stressed it was “not a ceasefire”.
“The reduction in violence covers provincial capitals, army HQs, divisions, battalion centres and foreign forces compounds,” he said on Twitter.
Any truce comes fraught with danger, and analysts warn the attempt to stem Afghanistan’s bloodshed is laced with complications and could fail at any time.
Since the US invasion in 2001 there has only been one other pause in the fighting – a surprise three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul marking the Eid in 2018.
Afghans responded joyfully, with Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians hugging, sharing ice creams and posing for selfies in previously unimaginable scenes.
Perhaps in a bid to avoid such scenes, the Taliban have instructed their fighters to stay away from government-controlled areas during the truce, but a senior Afghan security official said the insurgents would be welcome with “open arms”.
“I am hopeful the peace agreement will bring peace in Afghanistan and we will be able to return,” said Amir Khan, a father of six who fled Afghanistan 35 years ago and now lives in Peshawar.
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