Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday held a meeting with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Faiz Hameed to discuss, as per the official handout, “matters pertaining to national security”.
No further details were provided by the Prime Minister Office but observers believe that the meeting might be linked with the current Afghan situation particularly after the Biden Administration announced to review the peace deal with the Afghan Taliban.
The high-level huddle at the PM office is believed to have taken place to finalise Pakistan’s strategy as the Biden Administration will soon formally contact Islamabad to discuss the peace efforts in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has played a key role in facilitating and brokering the February 29 deal between the US and Afghan Taliban while at the same time is closely working with all stakeholders for a breakthrough during the intra-Afghan dialogue.
The announcement by the White House’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that the Biden administration would review the peace deal with Taliban is being followed very closely in Pakistan. Officials here say that they are waiting for more details to find out what kind of review the new US administration intends to seek.
Following the telephonic conversation between the National Security Advisers of US and Afghanistan, authorities in Kabul on Saturday rearrested 600 Taliban fighters, who were freed earlier as part of the February 29 landmark deal. Afghan government defended the decision by suggesting that Taliban fighters had returned to the battlefield.
Similarly, the Afghan President’s office also welcomed the announcement of a review of peace deal with the Taliban. Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a statement Saturday that the US-Taliban agreement so far failed to deliver the desired goal of ending Taliban violence and bringing a ceasefire. “The Taliban did not live up to its commitments,” he said.
This has raised concerns that the peace efforts may get derailed or hit a serious road block.
Against this backdrop, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a telephone call with Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar on Monday. Without explicitly mentioning the intention of Biden administration to review the peace deal, Qureshi said the Intra-Afghan Negotiations had provided a window of opportunity for return of lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan had always held that there was no military solution of the Afghan conflict and a political settlement was the only way forward,” Qureshi was quoting as saying by the foreign office.
“Pakistan would continue to play its positive role towards supporting the Afghan Peace Process and strengthening bilateral relations with Afghanistan,” he added.
Reiterating Pakistan’s consistent support to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, the Foreign Minister underlined that the Intra-Afghan negotiations (IAN) provided an historic opportunity for the Afghan leadership to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Minister expressed concern on the high level of violence in Afghanistan and emphasised progress in the IAN which would also facilitate reduction in violence, leading to ceasefire.
Highlighting Pakistan’s policy to strengthen trade between the two countries, Foreign Minister Qureshi drew Foreign Minister Atmar’s attention towards proposed establishment of Border Sustenance Markets. He underlined that it was a special initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan to boost local trade and economic activity in the border regions. The foreign minister expressed hope for the earliest finalisation of the MoU.
During the call, Foreign Minister Qureshi also raised the issue of Pakistani prisoners who had been languishing in Afghan jails over minor crimes. He expressed the hope that prisoners would be released as per the presidential decree, providing them an opportunity to return back to their families.