ISLAMABAD  -   Pakistan and the United States are expected to discuss the Afghan issue and the regional issues today (January 17) amid several changes in the schedule.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad had delayed his arrival in Pakistan and prolonged his stay in Afghanistan resulting in Pak-US talks’ delay.

The US envoy was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on January 15 but changed his schedule several times due to his engagements in Kabul.

Khalilzad will be accompanied by United States Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and will meet senior civil and military leaders during his visit. The US envoy will also hold delegation-level talks at the Foreign Office regarding the Afghan peace process.

Khalilzad had met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi and later visited Afghanistan, China and India as part of his four-nation trip which ends January 21. Senior US official Lisa Curtis is already in Islamabad. The US-Taliban talks are now facing a deadlock over agenda disagreement.

The Pak-US talks come as the two countries have agreed on carrot and stick policy for the Afghan Taliban to establish peace in Afghanistan. Western media reports claimed Pakistan had detained a senior member of the Afghan Taliban – a significant step after Islamabad had released some Taliban leaders recently to please the Afghan government and woo the Afghan Taliban for talks.

Reports said Hafiz Mohibullah, religious affairs minister when the Taliban ran Afghanistan before the 2001 US-led invasion, was detained in Peshawar.

Zalmay Khalilzad has met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and political leaders to discuss the next steps in US efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad “continues to coordinate with the National Unity Government and other Afghan stakeholders to ensure an intra-Afghan peace process. The US goal is to promote dialogue among Afghans about how to end the conflict, and to encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement in which every Afghan citizen enjoys equal rights and responsibilities under the rule of law,” an official statement had said.

During his last trip in December, Khalilzad reiterated that the only solution to the conflict is for all parties to sit together and reach an agreement on the political future of Afghanistan with mutual respect and acceptance.

According to foreign news agency, Taliban officials said the arrest of Mohibullah this week underlined a push by the government in Islamabad to pressure the insurgents to open talks with the Afghan government. “After his arrest, Pakistani authorities started raids on many other houses of the Taliban movement, their friends and commanders in different places in Pakistan,” said one senior Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban confirmed that Mohibullah had been released on Wednesday and spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said he was safe.


Tehmina discusses INGOs with Islamabad-based envoys


Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua had a detailed interaction with Islamabad-based envoys on Wednesday as part of outreach to discuss questions and mutual concerns related to registration and operation of the International Non-Governmental Organisations in Pakistan. Senior representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and the Economic Affairs Division also attended the meeting.

Outlining Pakistan’s approach and policy, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to a mutually beneficial framework on INGOs, underpinned by rule of law, transparency and responsive to nationally determined development priorities.

She noted that the policy framework was guided by Pakistan’s national context, circumstances, needs and priorities.

The Foreign Secretary recalled that the decisions on cancellation of registration and closure were in full accord with the standards of due process, noting that the right of appeal and opportunities to discuss mutual concerns were provided to the INGOs.

Responding to concerns over potential impact of cancellation decisions on the people of Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary underscored that 74 INGOs were operating freely in the country and contributing in several areas of priority to Pakistan.

Regarding suggestions for flexibility and periodic review, it was highlighted that the inter-agency mechanism had further delineated the scope of activities that are responsive to Pakistan’s national development priorities.

She encouraged the INGOs and donor governments to work for poverty alleviation, health, vocational education and training, science and technology, environmental protection, disaster management, sports and culture.

The envoys expressed appreciation for the open dialogue and constructive spirit to discuss mutual concerns, said a foreign ministry statement.

“Both sides agreed to remain engaged with a view to improved communications and finding ways to addressing concerns,” it added.