Taliban delegation to visit Pakistan to discuss way forward in Afghan peace process

ISLAMABAD, August 24: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – the head of the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Doha – is going to visit Pakistan along with a delegation to discuss the way forward in the Afghan peace process, The Express Tribune reported.

“Yes, we have invited the Afghan Taliban delegation to visit Pakistan to discuss the way forward in the Afghan peace process,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, the foreign office spokesperson, told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

He, however, neither confirmed the dates of the visit nor shed light on composition of the delegation.

According to sources quoted by Express tribune, the Afghan delegation was expected to arrive in Islamabad late on Sunday night. The delegation may already be in the capital by the time this report is printed.

The Afghan Taliban spokesperson also confirmed that a delegation led by Mullah Baradar would be visiting Islamabad and other capitals to discuss the Afghan peace efforts.

This will be the second visit of Mullah Baradar to Pakistan in the last 10 months.

He visited Islamabad in October last year when President Donald Trump abruptly called off the peace talks with the Taliban, citing the militant group’s continued attacks against the US-led foreign forces, the report said.

Pakistan at that time had arranged a meeting between the Taliban delegation led by Mullah Baradar and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the report added.

That meeting had helped the process to be back on track, which eventually culminated in the landmark deal signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29.

The Express tribune report said the deal envisages a roadmap for the US troops’ withdrawal in return for the Taliban agreeing not to let Afghan soil be ever used again by any terrorist group.

The visit of the Afghan delegation comes as preparations are being made to kick start the next phase of Afghan peace process, which is the intra-Afghan talks.

The intra-Afghan dialogue has been delayed for months because of differences between the Afghan government and the Taliban over the release of Taliban prisoners.

Recently, the final hurdle was removed when Afghan Loya Jirga – tribal grand assembly – endorsed President Ashraf Ghani’s move to free remaining 400 Taliban prisoners.

The development has now paved the way for the much awaited intra-Afghan dialogue. The first round is expected to take place in Doha. Pakistan has played a central role in brokering the deal and has still been involved with all stakeholders for the next phase of peace process.

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