Pakistan on Tuesday confirmed its participation in the trilateral religious conference starting in Indonesia on May 11 in an effort to discuss a peaceful solution to the ongoing war against terrorism in Afghanistan.
Qibla Ayaz, the chairman of Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), told VOA that Pakistani religious scholars will take part in the upcoming trilateral meeting in Indonesia.
“Pakistan is sending a 20-member-delegation of religious scholars belonging to different sects of Islam to this conference to build trust and to play its role to build peace in the region, especially in Afghanistan,” Ayaz said.
Ayaz also applauded the initiative by the Indonesian government of organizing an “extraordinary conference” that involves three Muslim-majority countries and is meant to find a solution to the war in Afghanistan.
Earlier last week, Afghanistan had also praised Indonesia’s efforts for its “sincere efforts in Afghan peace process”.
Afghanistan, Indonesia and Pakistan will participate with a 20-member delegation of prominent Islamic scholars and a joint statement condemning terrorism will be issued at the end of the conference.
The trilateral meeting was initiated by Afghanistan after it sought Indonesia’s support to convene the conference and to persuade Pakistani religious scholars to attend it in a bid to promote peace between the two countries.
The leaders of Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, have expressed hopes that the trilateral meetings will help to reach on a “mutual agreement, or a fatwa (edict)” that will persuade Taliban to denounce violence and to hold peace talks with the Afghan government.
Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla earlier this week said that through hosting the Ulema (Islamic Scholars) conference Indonesia could play its part in reaching out a political settlement between Afghan government and Taliban.
“We hope to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, we still a problem there,” Kalla had said on Saturday.
Analysts in Washington believe the conference might contribute towards peace efforts but they cast their doubt on a possible breakthrough.
“The aim of the trilateral conference is to reach an agreement and extend support for a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents. Given that the Taliban enjoys broad support from the Pakistani clerical circles who will be attending this conference,” Ahmad Khalid Majidyar, director of the Iran Observed Project at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told VOA.
“The event will help to build and understanding between clerics in Afghanistan and Pakistan but ultimately it’s unlikely to result in a breakthrough in potential peace talks,” Majidyar added.
Religious Scholars and the Taliban
Afghanistan accuses that hardline Pakistani religious scholars openly support Taliban and believe a joint statement against terrorism from prominent Islamic clerics will persuade Taliban to come on the peace talk table.
Taliban, on the other hand, have already denounced the proposed meeting and issued a statement in March that urged the scholars to boycott the conference in Indonesia.
“In order to give a legal face to the illegitimate Kabul administration and in the series of propaganda and deceptive ‘Peace Process’ efforts, this time around the enemies of our religion, country and independence want to fool internationally respected scholars and Islamic countries by convening a gathering of Islamic Scholars in the city of Jakarta, Indonesia or in another country,” warned the statement issued by the insurgent group.
Taliban, currently, holds 407 Afghan districts and there has been a spike in attacks by the group lately that has claimed nearly 1,000 civilian lives in the first quarter of 2018.
Taliban’s statement came as a response to Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) announcement about an international conference in March with a focus on Pakistani hardline religious clerics who support Taliban and their activities in Afghanistan.
"We are hoping that those Pakistani religious scholars like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, who see the war in Afghanistan as legitimate jihad, would participate in the conference," Sayed Ehsan Taheri, Afghan High Peace Council spokesperson had told VOA at the time.
The HPC’s announcement came after more than 1,800 Pakistani clerics had issued an Islamic decree, or fatwa, that categorically condemned and denounced the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism as “un-Islamic” and “against the teachings of the religion”.
Pakistan denies the allegations and says it has no links to the Taliban, and maintains peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest.
Muhammad Ishtiaq, Mubashir Zaidi contributed to this report.