While at one time Pakistan was expelled from the three-nation (Afghanistan and the US being the other two countries) dialogue, it has now been assigned the task of promoting the stalled Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. That reflects the crucial importance of Islamabad. As part of this effort, a delegation of the High Peace Council headed by Salahuddin Rabbani visited Pakistan from November 12-15 and met President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The outcome of these meetings is the decision to release nine Taliban leaders who were in Pakistan’s custody. It has further been agreed that these Taliban would be allowed a free passage by the stakeholders, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, and their names would be removed from the UN sanctions list.

Another outcome of the parleys held between Pakistan and the High Peace Council is to convene an Ulema conference. Its venue would be either in Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or any other Muslim country. The conference would review the issue of rising militancy and suicide attacks launched in the name of Islam, which defame the religion and tend to distort its universal message of peace. Renewed contacts between Afghan and Pakistani leaderships are a very positive development and the decision to release Taliban leaders has since been welcomed by the Americans. What is required is not to allow vested interest to sabotage these efforts.