Visit to incorporate Pakistani bidding


Against a backdrop of increased violence and differences over prisoner release, a political team of the Taliban led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Pakistan at the invitation of the Pakistani leadership. This is a second visit of the Taliban’s political delegation to Pakistan, as they had visited Islamabad previously in October 2019, which the neighboring country believes paved the way for the signing of the US-Taliban peace pact in February. Now that the peace process is once again at a deadlock, Islamabad is purporting to play the role of a catalyst. Meanwhile, the Taliban recently informed of finalizing its negotiating team for the long-anticipated intra-Afghan talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar, that have been delayed until an indefinite period due to a lag in the prisoner release process.

The recent foray of the Taliban to Pakistan raises questions because there were sweeping financial sanctions imposed against the group only a couple of days ago by the same country. Currently, the Taliban are trying to seek advice from its traditional ally (Pakistan). This visit of theirs seems to largely aim at receiving directions on how to proceed in the peace process with the Afghan government. As a front for the visit, the insurgent group hides behind the pretexts that it wants to discuss matters such as relaxation and facilitation of people´s movement, and trade between the two neighboring countries; whereas, the key priority should be a declaration of a ceasefire and the launch of intra-Afghan talks. The Taliban are denying that they are still an insurgent group – whose attacks kill numerous Afghan citizens on a daily basis – which the nation would concede as a reality and possibly reintegrate into society.

Such trips to receive briefings from Pakistan ahead of every landmark occasion in the peace process substantiate doubts on the group’s independence. Meanwhile, announcing from time to time that the group doesn’t recognize the Afghan government as legitimate and therefore won’t talk to it has also proven to be just a tactic to gain leverage because the group lately finalized its negotiating team for the intra-Afghan talks. Furthermore, the fact that the Afghan government is being pressurized by the US to release the remaining 320 contentious prisoners – while other countries oppose this move – further complicates the situation. Nevertheless, the warring sides should be considerate of such complexities and not allow the peace process to slip out their hands and into foreigners’. The calls for making this process Afghan-owned and Afghan-led shouldn’t remain symbolic but translated into practice.

Considering the circumstances, Afghanistan’s neighboring country is well-advised that it needn’t give lip service to Afghan peace alone but prove its sincere efforts in practice. It’s true that ultimately it’s for Afghans to reconcile but countries like Pakistan that enjoy a deep influence can equally be extreme spoilers. Apparently, the country also holds the strings of the group to some extent given the fact that many Taliban figures are known to own businesses, property and assets in Pakistan – a country where some of them also have families. Therefore, the Pakistani government should keep in view Afghanistan’s sovereignty and don’t try to further rile the insurgents against the Afghan state while making them do its bidding. Although the prisoner release is dubbed a major obstacle in the commencement of the intra-Afghan dialogue, there are other factors in play which the warring sides should take good stock of. They must address the complexities holding back the intra-Afghan talks and facilitate a respite for the war-weary Afghan nation from violence.