ISLAMABAD - Secretary Foreign Affairs Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry sounded upbeat yesterday that Afghan Taliban would soon join the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. “Efforts are underway that all factions of Afghan Taliban are united before the end of this month,” Aizaz told the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

Chairperson of the committee Begum Nuzhat Sadiq chaired the meeting which was also attended by Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry elaborated that the Quadrilateral Group of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China are trying that all factions of the Taliban get united by the end of this month before joining the peace talks.

He said that the recent visits of Afghan Intelligence Chief and Director General Military Operations to Pakistan were in this connection.

Asked what other options are on table with the Quadrilateral Group in case some factions of Afghan Taliban don’t join the talks, Aizaz Chaudhry said the four nations group has decided to give the reconciliation process a chance.

Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz while responding to a query from Senator Farhatullah Babar said that Pakistan was still weighing options about joining the 34-nations Saudi-led coalition to combat terrorism.

“One of the options is to cooperate in intelligence sharing,” he said when Senator Babar sought to know whether Riyadh’s decision to send troops to Syria was its unilateral strategy or of the 34-nations coalition.

Later, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed in an informal interaction with reporters said that Sartaj Aziz was ‘ambivalent’ while answering queries about Pakistan’s role in 34-nations coalition.

In a related development, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Foreign Affairs which met under the chairmanship of Awais Ahmad Leghari had an interesting discourse on relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The committee heard a panel of three experts, including former ambassador Ayaz Wazir, Brig (Retd) Assad Munir and renowned journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai about different aspects of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

They were of the view that terrorists have now established safe heavens on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border which will have far-reaching implications on relations between the two countries.

None of the experts agreed to the notions that Pakistan should fence the border with Afghanistan which they believed not possible because of the nature of the terrain and would further complicate relations between the two countries.

Ambassador Ayaz Wazir in his presentation called for Pakistan giving market access to India to the Central Asia Republics arguing it would help boost Pak-Afghan relations.

Instead he suggested that Pakistan should not delay its decision about the status of FATA whether to make it an independent province or merged into the Khyber Pukhtunkhewa province. “This development alone would help strengthen Pakistan’s position viz-a-viz Afghanistan,” Wazir argued.

Brig (Retd) Assad Munir largely dwelt on the Pakistan-Afghanistan relations in historical perspective and about the state of insurgency in the region and its future.

He was of the view that Pakistan needs to change the perception among Afghans that Pakistan was not responsible for the sorry state of affairs in Afghanistan.

Rahimullah Yousafzai noted that there is total media disconnect between the two countries and called for enhancing media relations between the two countries which he believed would help doing way with trust deficit between the two countries.

He was of the view that Pakistan should not have taken the responsibility of bringing Afghan Taliban on negotiations tables as in case of failure it would give greater mileage to Afghan authorities to further accuse Islamabad of one thing or the other.

The committee unanimously decided to co-opt members of the National Assembly from FATA in the committee for their input on about the status of FATA before firming up recommendations on Pakistan and Afghanistan relations.