ISLAMABAD - Pakistan says it is “highly dismayed” at the recent surge in hostilities in Afghanistan “from all sides,” warning it would harm ongoing efforts to bring peace to the war-ravaged neighboring country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan issued the statement Thursday as the United States makes diplomatic efforts to seek a negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old Afghan war.
“Pakistan implores all parties to recognize the importance of the moment and seize it,” said Khan whose government takes credit for arranging Washington’s ongoing direct talks with the Afghan Taliban.
However, the months-long U.S.-initiated dialogue process did not discourage the Islamist insurgent group from launching this year’s “spring offensive," which marks an increase in deadly battlefield attacks in Afghanistan. The Taliban justified the move, saying the country was still under “foreign occupation” and U.S.-backed Afghan security forces unleashed their own spring operations against insurgents.
Afghan leaders have long accused Pakistan of covertly supporting the Taliban to regain power in Kabul, in what they call an effort to continue Islamabad’s meddling in Afghan affairs, charges Pakistani officials deny.
“Pakistan has committed all diplomatic and security capital to success of peace process. Pakistan will not be party to any internal conflict in Afghanistan anymore,” Khan asserted while responding to skeptics.
Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the U.S. team of negotiators in talks with the Taliban, embarked on a fresh visit this week to Afghanistan and regional countries, hoping to make progress on resolving differences between various Afghan groups and the Taliban to bring them to the table for intra-Afghan peace talks.
Khalilzad is scheduled to hold another round of talks with Taliban envoys in Qatar during his current trip that will also take him to meetings with leaders in Pakistan.
Khan underlined in his statement Thursday the ongoing Afghan peace effort offered “a historic opportunity” for bringing peace to the region and ending decades of Afghan suffering.
"Pakistan is fully supporting the process, including the next logical step of an intra Afghan dialogue wherein Afghans will themselves decide upon the future of their country,” the Pakistani leader stressed.
The Taliban, however, refuses to engage in any formal Afghan political dialogue for peace until a timetable is set for all U.S.-led foreign forces to leave Afghanistan.