A visiting Afghan Taliban delegation is holding meetings with officials in Pakistan and plans to give them “some briefing” on the insurgent group's recent contacts with the Kabul government, a top official confirmed Monday.
The insurgent delegation arrived in the country late last week from the Taliban’s so-called political office in Qatar, but Pakistani authorities had until now publicly declined to acknowledge it.
“We know that their [Taliban’s] delegation has come and its details have already been published in the newspapers. But, I think it would not be appropriate at this stage for me to disclose details of our discussions with them,” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani prime minister’s adviser on foreign policy, told reporters in Islamabad.
The Taliban has already formally announced its high-powered delegation has undertaken the visit to discuss among other issues a Pakistani security crackdown on insurgent leaders, resulting in arrests of several of them and possible closure of religious seminaries for Afghan refugees in Baluchistan.
The southwestern Pakistani province shares a long border with Afghanistan where Taliban leaders and fighters are sheltering among hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.
The Taliban sent its delegation to Pakistan just days after reports emerged in the media of secret meetings in Qatar between Taliban negotiators and Afghan intelligence chief Muhammad Masoom Stanekzai. The insurgent group denied the reports as propaganda while Afghan officials have also publicly declined to acknowledge it.
But Pakistani adviser Aziz confirmed the meeting without sharing any details.
“There was a meeting in Qatar few days ago, and obviously they [the Taliban] are going to do some briefing about it [in their meetings]. And as we move forward, we will continue with our effort to see [the Afghan peace] dialogue and some reconciliation taking place for bringing lasting peace [in Afghanistan],” Aziz said.
He asserted that Pakistan, as part of a four-nation grouping, is continuing with its individual efforts to persuade the Taliban to come to the table for negotiations with the Afghan government.
The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group, or QCG, includes Afghanistan, the United States and China. It has held several meetings since the beginning of the year to try to arrange talks between the Afghan warring sides but has failed to make any progress other than just finalizing a so-called “road map” for peace.
Aziz reiterated that all the members have an obligation to make individual efforts toward promoting the Afghan reconciliation for bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan.
The crackdown on Taliban members in Baluchistan is targeting those insurgents who refuse to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government, senior Pakistani officials told VOA.
They insisted the insurgents are being pressured to either engage in peace talks or leave Pakistan. The presence of Taliban leaders on Pakistani soil has been at the center of Islamabad’s tensions with Kabul.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani alleges the sanctuary in Pakistan has enabled the Taliban to prolong the war in his country and expand its influence after U.S.-led foreign combat troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014.