Taliban delegation due in Pak ahead of intra-Afghan talks (Ld)

Amid the extending wait in the initiation of the all-important intra-Afghan dialogue, a Taliban delegation will be landing in Pakistan to discuss the way forward towards the Afghan peace process.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Doha, will lead the high-level delegation.

It will meet senior leaders of the Imran Khan-led government.

“A high-level delegation from the Political Office of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, led by its Deputy Political Director and Head of the Political Office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, left for Pakistan today on the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The delegation of the Islamic Emirates will meet with senior Pakistani officials to discuss the Afghan peace process,” maintained Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson for the Taliban.

Shaheen added that the delegation will discuss “Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the two neighbouring countries to facilitate public movement and trade and other related issues”, will be part of the discussion.

The visit of the Taliban comes at a time when intra-Afghan dialogue process is banking on the release of all the Taliban prisoners in Afghan jails, as announced by the Ashraf Ghani led Afghan government after the Loya Jirga meeting.

Shaheen has maintained that the intra-Afghan dialogue can start within a week of the release of all prisoners, adding that this is as per commitment in the Doha peace deal.

Pakistan’s role in the overall peace negotiations has been pivotal as it was Islamabad that helped restart the dialogue process after a gap of at least 10 months in October 2019 after US President Donald Trump called off the peace talks, citing militant group’s continues attacks against the US-led foreign forces.

The visit also holds importance in context of the recent endorsement by Pakistan on adding all individuals, entities, organizations and their affiliate groups, listed in the UN Security Council (UNSC) sanction list through a sanctuary order.

The addition included important members of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

Pakistan’s step would now impose a legal binding to freeze all assets, bank accounts, travel bans and arms embargo against the groups and individuals.

It is expected that the Taliban delegation will be raising their concerns over Islamabad’s decision and may seek leverage in barter to compensations or considerations in their stance on initiation of the intra—Afghan dialogue.

Taliban maintain that their remaining 400 prisoners in Afghan jails needs to be released first before materialization of the first round of intra-Afghan dialogue, which would be held in Doha.

On the other hand, the Afghan government has called on the Taliban to announce ceasefire first before release of prisoners, a demand the militant group is not ready to accept.