By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, Dec 26 | Kabul has once again exposed Islamabads double standards on playing a peacemaker in Afghan conflict by severely condemning the presence of Taliban fighters on Pakistani soil. The emergence of recent video footage disclosing the existence of all Taliban leaders in Pakistan has shocked the Afghan government which was expecting Pakistani PM Imran Khan to play a constructive role towards achieving its goal of ending the decades long violence in the country through the Afghan-Taliban peace talks.
A delegation of the Taliban Political Commission had visited Pakistan at the invitation of the Imran Khan government last week – a trip which was supposedly a part of efforts to strengthen the process of national peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan but ultimately turned out to be a huge farce.
Afghanistan’s hopes of constructive negotiations resulting in immediate reduction of violence, comprehensive ceasefire and lasting peace were dashed when details about the overt presence and activities of insurgent elements and their leaders in Pakistani territory emerged a few days ago.
“Following the Taliban leaders’ meetings with Pakistani officials, a series of video footages emerged in which the Taliban appeared among their followers, disclosing the existence of all Taliban leaders in Pakistan and acknowledging their continued activities in Pakistani territory. It is with deepest regret and concern that some Taliban leaders were seen in the videos visiting training camps,” a statement released by the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Country’s leading news channel, TOLOnews said that the ministry’s remarks came in response to a video of Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar which showed him addressing some members of the militant group in Karachi. The channel stated that Baradar, after meeting with the “wounded members” of the group, has revealed that all decisions about the Afghan peace process are being finalized in consultation with the Taliban’s leadership “which exists in Pakistan” and the Taliban’s cleric council in Pakistan.
“When we conduct partial or general negotiations there (Doha), we share the whole process with the leaders and the Ulema council here (in Pakistan). We receive back their guidance and act upon it,” the channel quoted Baradar as saying from footage shared on social media showing him with Taliban supporters in Karachi.
Afghan foreign ministry, which was hoping for practical steps being taken towards stopping the bloodshed and bringing about sustainable peace in Afghanistan, says the development comes as a “cause of great concern” especially after all the promises made by Imran Khan with regard to the Afghan-Taliban peace talks during his visit to Kabul in November.
“The overt presence and activities of Afghan insurgent elements and their leaders in Pakistani territory clearly violate Afghanistan’s national sovereignty and continue to cause crisis and instability in the region, posing a serious challenge to achieving sustainable peace in Afghanistan. We urge the Pakistani Government not to allow its territory to be used by insurgents and elements who insist on continuing the war and bloodshed,” the ministry said.
It reminded Pakistan that it had assured the Afghan government of employing all available means and potentials towards reducing violence, establishing a ceasefire, and paving the ground for a peaceful resolution of the Afghan crisis.
“The Government of Afghanistan considers the closure of insurgent and terrorist sanctuaries and the cessation of their activities vital for the peaceful resolution of the Afghan crisis and ensuring regional peace and stability. Afghanistan calls once again for the continuation of sincere cooperation and genuine fight against terrorism and common threats.”
Expecting “sincerity” from Pakistan would be a tough ask though. It is for the second time in the last four months that the Taliban has visited Islamabad to hold talks with the Pakistani leadership. They had taken similar strategic advice before the start of peace talks with the Afghan government in Doha on September 12. The latest revelations may dent the next round of intra-Afghan dialogue due to begin on January 5.
No wonder then that an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan Government-controlled reconciliation process seems a distant reality. A lot would also depend on the incoming Joe Biden administration. While the US President Donald Trump announced on November 17 its decision to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan by January 15, there is a strong possibility of Biden slowing down the exit.
The ongoing peace efforts being made under the Afghan-Taliban peace talks have already suffered a major setback due to an alarming increase in violence over the past few months in the war-torn country. The latest target was the Bagram Airfield, a major US airbase in Afghanistan, which was attacked with five rounds of rockets recently.
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