Pakistan vows to help peace efforts in Afghanistan
Pakistan will support every effort to promote reconciliation in Afghanistan, a senior government official said ahead of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit to Qatar Monday to discuss peace efforts.
Gilani's trip comes after the Taliban last month said they planned to set up a political office in Qatar ahead of possible talks with the United States.
"There are certain ideas and suggestions on Afghan reconciliation and when Prime Minister Gilani meets Qatar's leadership, these will certainly come under discussion," the official, privy to developments on the issue, told AFP on Sunday.
"Americans have been briefing us on all developments aimed at pushing forward the peace process in Afghanistan and we have clearly told them that Islamabad strictly adheres to a policy of non-interference," the official, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
"We are ready to support every effort and a process that is Afghan-led and involves all factions," he said, adding "it is important to engage all Afghan factions including Taliban in the process to achieve a lasting peace".
"We have no favourites in Afghanistan and strongly believe that all Afghan factions have to be on board and agree on a certain formula", the official stressed.
"The only favourite that we have is peace and stability in Afghanistan."
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar during a visit to Kabul last week rejected accusations that her country was secretly supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have also denied plans for peace talks with the Afghan government in Saudi Arabia.
The statements came as a leaked NATO report charged that Pakistan's security services were backing the Taliban, who consider victory inevitable once Western combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.
Asked how Pakistan viewed the Taliban's announcement on setting up an office in Qatar, the official said "now they have an address and all those wanting peace can have a contact."
Afghanistan has given its blessing to the move, but Kabul, wary of being sidelined in talks between the insurgents and Washington, has insisted on a central role in any negotiations.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are often tense. The Kabul government has accused Islamabad in the past of supporting the Taliban and sabotaging all efforts to launch peace negotiations.
Pakistan's support is therefore seen as key to forging peace in the country.
The official said Pakistan did not think it was being left out of the process.
"There is nothing of the sort and we did not gather such an impression of being left out from anywhere," he said.
Asked how Pakistan viewed the possibility of Saudi Arabia as a possible facilitator in the process, the official said Islamabad was not fixed on a particular country taking the role.
"The end result should be a solution and peace in Afghanistan," he said.
"Pakistan welcomes any effort that is made from anywhere to push forward the peace process."
Meanwhile, Gilani said during a televised media discussion in Islamabad on Sunday that it was in Pakistan's interest to see a stable Afghanistan.
"We are ready to support any reconciliation process that is Afghan-led," he said.
But analysts believe that any role for Pakistan in the process is possible only after it improves ties with the United States.
"Pakistan will have to improve relations with the US. Qatar is a facilitator of the dialogue between the US and the Taliban and it cannot get a seat for Pakistan at the negotiations table," analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.
Pakistan must have the confidence of the US and Afghanistan to become an active player in the dialogue process, he added.
Commenting on Taliban's decision to open a political office in Qatar, he said, "It will be a very useful contact point if it is an extension of Mullah Omar's system".
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