Work-in-progress peace process enters crucial stage
Senior US envoy Alice Wells arrived in Pakistan on Monday for meetings with the civilian-military bigwigs after the initial stopover in Kabul for preliminary talks with Afghan leadership on accelerating peace talks with the Taliban, highlighting once again the inescapable fact that the road to Afghan peace passes through Islamabad. This visit has special significance as it comes in the aftermath of the celebrated and unprecedented Eidul Fitr ceasefire between Afghan government and the Taliban which Pakistan welcomed, three days of surprisingly familiar and easy interaction between civilians, military and militants, an eye-opening event that alarmed senior Taliban commanders, as it exposed war-weariness of Taliban rank and file after 17 years of waging war. The US considers that the jubilant ceasefire spectacles provide enough impetus to redouble efforts for a negotiated settlement.
Under the robust Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a laudable progress is noticeable in counter-terror cooperation, strengthening mutual trust, remaining engaged, and developing a permanent framework and mechanism structure, including various Working Groups, which have recently led to a written agreement or roadmap (still kept under wraps) on key issues, as acknowledged by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. The US finds the militants’ refusal of peace talks ‘unacceptable’. It is itself now willing to talk to the Taliban in tandem with Afghan government without preconditions, expecting the same of the militants. Pakistan is envisaged as putting in ‘sustained and decisive’ efforts to rope in the Taliban leadership. Both the US and Afghanistan recognise Pakistan’s pivotal role in Afghan peace, and its leaders must seize this ideal opportunity to pacify the perpetually destabilised region, as there presently exists a genuine, indeed desperate, common desire among all three main protagonists for peace, and in this complex equation Pakistan is expected to do its bit, commonly termed ‘do more’, to coax the militants to the negotiating table, considering its supposed sway over some Taliban leaders, especially those allegedly based on its territory. Pakistan has enough dire problems on its plate demanding immediate attention, including the economy, and facilitating peace in Afghanistan will free it to confront the larger, worrisome, ndomestic dilemmas and a much-needed rancour-free US relationship.