Pakistan’s Role in Afghan Peace Process

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Pakistan has played a pivotal role in facilitating the Afghanistan peace process. Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process is a series of dialogue efforts carried out by national, regional and global actors involved in the Afghan conflict for achieving political stability by ending the brewing civil war in Afghanistan. The most comprehensive and consistent effort in this regard is the Doha peace process, which is a dialogue between the US and Afghan Taliban held in Qatar, both of whom are vital actors involved in this armed conflict.  The previous peace process including the Istanbul peace process and the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) having Pakistan, Taliban, China and US as members, failed to produce any conclusive results due to the diverging perspective of the US and Taliban on achieving peace in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump wants to end the Afghan war before end of 2020. He has brought clarity in the US perspective by shifting its focus from a military solution to a non-military solution of the Afghan conflict. The latter aims at achieving political stability in Afghanistan through a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, who are a real and potent force of Afghan geopolitics. Taliban are the main actors in the conflict with the US and Afghan governments. The realization of this factor came to the US administration after the failure of President Trump’s US, South Asia and Afghanistan policy, 2016, which aimed at crushing them through use of force. As a consequence, the US has shifted its focus toward having dialogue with Taliban which is materialized through the support of Pakistan.

Pakistan has always emphasized on a regional approach to end armed conflict in Afghanistan through a non-military solution of ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process’ as a political settlement for achieving durable peace in Afghanistan and the region. The shift in the US perspective towards having a dialogue with the Taliban is the reinforcement of Pakistan’s perspective. Therefore, the converging perspective between the US and Pakistan has brought clarity and warmth in their bilateral relations concerning Afghanistan. Pakistan has been successful in making the US realize its role in this current dialogue process as a sincere facilitator. Pakistan’s role is acknowledged by President Trump during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit. Qatar has hosted this dialogue, and named it the Doha peace process, because the Taliban have their political office in Qatar since 2011.

A regional approach for materializing the ‘Intra-Afghan dialogue’ is required because none of the single regional states or global powers, including US, China and Russia, have an influence on all the national actors involved in this conflict.  Pakistan has played an important role in facilitating the second phase of the current Afghan peace process by organizing a conference for all Afghan political parties in Murree in the summer. Later, it was given the name of the Lahore process. Similar efforts are carried out by Russia by organizing two conferences for all Afghan political parties in Moscow which were given the name of Moscow peace process for deliberation between and among all national stakeholders of Afghanistan. The most recent development in this regard is the Afghanistan peace conference held in China where the delegation of Taliban has also participated and expressed their willingness for dialogue with the Afghan government.

As a result of these confidence-building measures, the Afghan government has officially constituted a 15-member delegation for a dialogue with the Taliban. The Taliban have also expressed their consent for dialogue with Afghan government as their conditions for dialogue with the US and Afghan government are accepted in this peace process. This peace process will be cumbersome because of a multitude of actors and their conflicting views.

Therefore, the role of regional and global powers as guarantors to this peace process will increase in the future for the implementation of the consensus document and negotiated political formula, which will be the third and most important phase of this peace process. Therefore, Pakistan’s role will increase in the future trajectory of this current Afghanistan peace process.

Pakistan has always supported all initiatives taken towards peace  in Afghanistan. Pakistan considers a peaceful and prosperous  Afghanistan key  to the  prosperity of  the region.  The longevity of the Afghan conflict is not in the interests of any stake holder (both internal and external). The neighbouring countries being located within proximity with conflicting zone are  at  high  risk.  Afghanistan can play the role of facilitator for transit trade in the region. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that aims to provide  the  facility  of  transit  trade  to China,  Afghanistan,  and  Central  Asian  Republics (CARs)  would only be  possible if there  is peace and  harmony in Afghanistan.

War is not a solution to any dispute or a conflict. Therefore, Pakistan believes in meaningful dialogues  between  the major  stakeholders to  bring  about an  end to the  regional conflicts. Making peace with  Taliban has been  considered a major challenge for the Kabul government. However, Pakistan’s mediating role at this stage is seen crucial by the Afghan government and all major stakeholders. Pakistan’s  positive role  in the process gives it a greater opportunity to send a message to US authorities that she wants a peaceful region and a healthy neighbourhood. US  state department appreciated Pakistan’s involvement in the process.Pakistan’s  authorities  have  reassured their commitment to play a positive role in the Afghan peace process. Our country is resolute towards finding a reliable solution  to  the  conflict  because  Pakistan  wants  Afghanistan  “at  peace  with  itself”  said Foreign  Minister  Qureshi  .  Pakistan’s  foreign  office  spokesman highlighting Pakistan’s  role  in the process  told  that his country  would  continue to facilitate the process yet it supports “politically negotiated intra-Afghan solution to the problem” Pakistan’s  role  as a  facilitator  of the  US-Taliban dialogue and her overall performance has also been praised by  the President  Trump.  Inviting  Pakistan’s  Premier  Khan to  the US  is indicative of positive gestures and augurs well for the region.

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