ISLAMABAD - Despite President Ashraf Ghani’s hostile attitude, Pakistan is once again taking the lead for Afghanistan peace as Islamabad hosts the fifth Quadrilateral Coordination Group meeting on Afghan Peace and Reconciliation process here today (Wednesday).

President Ghani last month accused Pakistan of sheltering the militants and asked Islamabad to fight Taliban instead of engaging them in talks.

In his speech to a joint session of the houses of parliament after a deadly terrorist attack in Kabul, Ghani pointed a finger at ‘Peshawar and Quetta’ from where, he said, the ‘enemies’ sent terrorists to shed blood and destroy the people of Afghanistan.

Although Ghani mentioned the Haqqani group and ‘some Taliban’ as the enemies of Afghanistan, he fell short of naming the enablers.

Under a recent presidential directive, the Afghan security forces were ordered to use an unprecedented level of force against the Taliban in the country.

According to the Afghan President, over the past 13 months Afghan national security and defence forces conducted ‘more than 40,000’ military operations and more than 16,000 resolute operations within the country.

Under Ghani’s national unity government, the US forces have a total free hand in conducting their military operations in Afghanistan, from drone strikes to house search. It is about 100 combat operations and 40 resolute operations every day, all carried out on Afghan soil.

Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said yesterday Pakistan will host “the fifth QCG meeting on Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Process on 18 May 2016 in Islamabad.” He did not elaborate.

Reports said special envoys of China and the US and senior officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan were expected to attend the meeting. The group comprising Afghanistan, the US, China and Pakistan has been working for months to restart the nascent peace process.

But the lack of progress has left many frustrated, as the Taliban ramp up their insurgency, launched in late-2001 after they were toppled from power by a US-led invasion.

A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that despite hostile statements from Kabul, Pakistan was committed to Afghan peace.

“Peace in the neighbouring countries is in our own benefit. If Afghanistan is peaceful, we will be peaceful. Our government has not stepped back despite Kabul’s outburst,” he said.

The official said Islamabad believed talks were the ultimate solution to any issue. “This is why we are promoting the dialogue process. The countries that are interested in Afghanistan peace will be attending the meeting to take the peace process further,” he said.

A joint statement issued after the fourth round in late February said direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban were ‘expected to take place’ by early March. But the Taliban announced in April the start of their ‘spring offensive’ even as the government in Kabul tried to bring the insurgents back to the negotiating table to end their drawn-out conflict.

National Security Adviser Lieutenant General (r) Nasir Janjua said in Islamabad yesterday that Pakistan wanted peace and stability to prevail in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistanis had shared their homes and hospitality with migrants coming from Afghanistan. “Our hearts beat for Afghanistan. We are a peace loving nation and wish for prevalence of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he added.

On the issue of proliferation of terrorists from across the border, Janjua said that Taliban militants often find refuge through displaced Afghans and those making their way to Pakistan. “Border management with Afghanistan is a crucial issue,” Janjua said.

Also yesterday, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said the international community as well as regional powers must contribute for peace and rehabilitation in Afghanistan.

The minister said Pakistan had been hosting over three million Afghan refugees - including 1.7 million undocumented - for the last three decades, which was the highest number in the world. He said the western media neglected Afghan refugees and paid attention to only Middle East and other regions.

Earlier, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

He emphasised that political reconciliation was the only viable option for promoting peace in Afghanistan. He said violent activities will have to be stopped for the success of the dialogue process.

More recently, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi said Pakistan was making sincere efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process.

He said Pakistan had taken a clear lead in strengthening its relations with the neighbouring countries, with the ultimate objective to achieve regional stability, peace, harmony and prosperity.

Ahead of the QCG meeting, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal said Kabul expected the meeting to agree on implementation of the roadmap the group had agreed upon in its meeting in February - referring to the quartet call for the Taliban to shun violence and join direct talks.

Analyst Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal said it was unfair to accuse Pakistan for worst peace situation in Afghanistan. “United States must play its role to convey to the world that Pakistan itself is the victim of terrorism and has always supported peace in the region,” he said.

Jaspal said it was basically the failure of United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “Such propagandas against Pakistan could be a hurdle in economic development of the region. India is backing terrorists in Afghanistan who have been involved in carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan”, he added.

He said India was making all out attempts to create misunderstandings between Kabul and Islamabad in order to sabotage the development projects.