Taliban delegation in Pakistan on Wednesday

A delegation from Taliban’s Qatar- based political office is reaching Islamabad on Wednesday on a three-day trip for consultations on ongoing Afghan peace process.

The delegation led by Taliban’s deputy chief for political affairs Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader will meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during its stay in Islamabad, the Dawn reported.

The visit is taking place on Pakistan government’s invitation, a Taliban spokesman said.

A 20-day break in intra-Afghan negotiations and coming transition in the United States form the backdrop of Taliban’s latest visit to Islamabad.

Afghan government and Taliban negotiators have taken the break to consult their principals on the negotiations on the agenda of the talks.

Meanwhile, the change at the White House next month, intensified fighting in Afghanistan and lack of clarity about the next venue for the talks have inserted an element of uncertainty into the process.

Taliban delegation’s visit follows closely on the heels of a trip by US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad to Islamabad on Monday.

The anxiety in Washington about the break was obvious from the envoy’s social media messages.

Amb Khalilzad, after his arrival in Islamabad, tweeted: “Tragically, the war continues. The need for a political settlement, reduction in violence, and a ceasefire remain urgent.”

“Given how much is at stake, it is imperative that there is no delays in resumption of talks and they must resume on Jan 5 as agreed,” he said in another tweet.

Pakistan this year not only helped the US and Taliban sign their agreement, but also facilitated the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and more lately the agreement on rules and procedures for the dialogue.

The Prime Minister, during his visit to Kabul last month, assured the Afghan leadership of Pakistan’s cooperation for reduction in violence in Afghanistan. He told President Ashraf Ghani that “we will do whatever is within our reach”.

Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in his meeting with Amb Khalilzad assured him of Pakistan’s continued support for efforts for regional peace and stability.

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