ISLAMABAD: A delegation of the Taliban will arrive in Pakistan today (Monday) to discuss the Afghan peace process with the Pakistani leadership, at the invitation of the foreign office.
According to The News, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry confirmed the report saying that the “delegation has been invited to Pakistan to discuss the way forward in the Afghan peace process”.
The visit comes ahead of the much delayed intra-Afghan peace talks — which were part of the deal signed between the group and the US in February — and were expected to begin August 20 but got delayed.
“A high-level Islamic Emirate [Taliban] delegation led by deputy political chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has left for Pakistan upon the invitation of the country’s Foreign Ministry to discuss the latest on the peace process, state of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, [cross-border] travel of people, and trade between the two neighbours,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a series of tweets on Sunday.
The spokesperson added that the delegation will hold talks with senior Pakistani officials about recent developments in Afghanistan’s peace process, relaxation and facilitation of peoples’ movement and trade between the two neighbouring countries, issues related to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and other related topics.
A senior official of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) told foreign media on condition of anonymity that the Taliban delegation was expected to hold meetings with “Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership” on Monday, The News reported.
Pakistan is seen as a key regional player in helping facilitate a February troop withdrawal deal between the United States and the Taliban to begin the process of ending 18 years of war. The agreement was intended to quickly lead to talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government but became mired in delays.
‘Danger to the world’ Taliban prisoners being released
Prospects of peace in Afghanistan after 19 long years of war brightened earlier this month when Kabul started releasing 400 Taliban prisoners who were described by President Ashraf Ghani as a “danger to the world.”
Earlier, a group of 80 prisoners was released, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, Javid Faisal had said, adding that it would “speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting, nationwide ceasefire”.
The release of the 400 militants was approved by a gathering of thousands of prominent Afghans called by Ghani after the authorities initially refused to free the militants.
The prisoners include some 44 insurgents of particular concern to the United States and other countries for their role in high-profile attacks.