ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is rejecting Afghan demands for military action against Taliban commanders within Pakistan and emphasizes the need to continue talks for a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan.
In Islamabad Tuesday, Pakistani foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz dismissed demands by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan evict Taliban insurgents through military action or arrest and hand them over to Kabul for trial and punishment for killing innocent Afghans. Ghani recently announced that Afghanistan will not seek Pakistan's help in arranging reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
Aziz called Afghan outrage at Pakistan an expression of frustration because they (Afghan leaders) were expecting reconciliation talks would have started by now and led to a reduction in violence. He said it is unfortunate the Taliban has gone ahead with its spring offensive and negotiations have also not started.
The Pakistani adviser, however, also said the insurgency has been unable to make significant advances in the fighting and has not captured any territory. He said that if stability persists on the battlefield, it could push the Taliban to the talks with the Afghan government.
Aziz said Pakistan has not yet come to that stage because officials believe it is premature; but Afghanistan is pushing Pakistan to urgently examine and take action against Taliban leaders. Aziz added that Islamabad is telling Kabul the military option has been applied since 2001 but has not ended the Afghan conflict, referring to the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
He said, “The reconciliation option cannot materialize in just two to four weeks and should be given due time because it is the only way to bring peace to Afghanistan.”
Aziz said Pakistan will continue to pursue efforts together with the United States and China for a peaceful resolution of the Afghan war. He added that a Taliban delegation from its political office in Qatar also visited Pakistan last week as part of the “exploratory contacts” Islamabad is making to facilitate Afghan peace talks.
The Pakistani official said Beijing, Washington and even negotiators from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council also maintain contacts with the Taliban’s Qatar office and are using them to promote the peace and reconciliation process.
Kabul has criticized Islamabad for allowing the Taliban to send a delegation to Islamabad, saying “a terrorist group” should not have been allowed to do so.
Kabul hardened its stance toward reconciliation talks and relations with Pakistan after a deadly bomb-and-gun assault in the Afghan capital on April 19 left nearly 70 people dead and around 350 others wounded.
After the Kabul attack, the Afghan government accused Islamabad of not acting against the Taliban and militants linked to the Haqqani network that Kabul alleges used Pakistani soil to plot the assault and other insurgent violence in Afghanistan. Haqqanis have ties to the Pakistani spy agency, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.