ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States are optimistic about the resolution of the Afghanistan issue after arch rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal.

Under the deal, Ghani will stay on as president while both leaders will choose an equal number of ministers. Abdullah will lead peace talks with the Taliban.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, his US counterpart Mike Pompeo and US special envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad have shown optimism that this deal will pave way for peace in the war-torn country.

Pakistan has played a key role in the Afghan peace process and bringing the Afghan Taliban and the US on the talks table

FM Qureshi ON Monday said Pakistan welcomes the Afghan power-sharing agreement. “The agreement has been reached between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. The negotiations between Afghan groups are also essential for lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said. He added: “The process of release of prisoners in Afghanistan must be accelerated. A conducive environment is needed for peace, in which everyone has a role to play.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was glad to hear about the Afghan agreement. “Glad to hear from @ashrafghani and @DrabdullahCE about their agreement on inclusive governance. We welcome their commitment to act now for peace in Afghanistan,” he tweeted.

Pompeo added: “We warmly welcome the announcement of the formation of a new Government of Israel. We are extremely fortunate to have such strong and experienced partners in Jerusalem, and we will work together to advance the security and prosperity of our peoples.”

 

Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been engaged with the Afghan government and Taliban for peace, says after a protracted period, Ghani and Abdullah had agreed to form an inclusive government in which Abdullah will lead the peace process.

“The outline for this compromise has been in place for 10 weeks. We welcome the compromise and wish the new government success,” he said. The US, he said, “is prepared to partner with the new govt in a peace process that ends the war. That process must be based on timely implementation of commitments made to date. Both leaders should not repeat mistakes in governing that existed under NUG (national unity government), as Afghans negotiated this government.”

 

It is high time, he said, “to take seriously the resolve of the Afghan people, and the world, to finally see an end to this conflict. Dr. Abdullah must move forward with full speed and urgency, and be sincerely supported therein by the current Afghan government.”

Ghani and  and Abdullah - who both claimed victory in last September’s election - had last month held rival inauguration ceremonies. The Afghan electoral commission says incumbent Ashraf Ghani narrowly won the vote, but Abdullah has alleged the result was fraudulent.

 

Dr Abdullah, a former eye surgeon, wrote on Twitter after the ceremony that the agreement would help to form a “more inclusive, accountable and competent administration”. He added: “We now need to come together as a nation, strive to seek solutions that are practical.”

 

President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said details about positions being held by members of Dr Abdullah’s team would be revealed later. The deal comes as Afghan authorities are hoping to enter peace talks with the Taliban to end years of violence.

Last month, the Taliban walked out of the talks, saying any face-to-face discussions with the Afghan government had proved “fruitless.” The talks reportedly broke down over a prisoner swap agreed earlier between the US and Taliban. It was meant to be a step towards ending the war, but the Taliban say Afghan officials are trying to delay the release, while officials say the militants’ demands are unreasonable.