ISLAMABAD           -         Pakistan and Afghan Taliban discussed the peace process this week in Doha, the Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

A Foreign Ministry statement said Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq visited Doha, Qatar on June 16-17 and met Taliban leaders including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to discuss the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

“The Special Representative underlined that Pakistan will continue to play its role as facilitator for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. In this context, he referred to the highly productive visit of the Chief of Army Staff to Kabul recently, which had imparted a new impetus to Pakistan’s efforts,” the statement said.

The Special Representative appreciated the Taliban’s commitment to implement the US- Taliban peace agreement. He also noted that the release of prisoners as per the US-Taliban peace agreement would be a stepping stone towards an immediate re-start of Intra-Afghan negotiations.

“Pakistan hopes that all concerned parties will make sincere efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Pakistan, on its part, remains fully committed to support the Afghan Peace Process,” the statement said. This month, the US had lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s role for Afghan peace.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had visited Islamabad on June 7 and met Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Ambassador Khalilzad discussed steps required for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations.

The two took note of recent progress created by the Eid ceasefire and accelerated prisoner releases as well as reduced violence ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.

Pakistan and the US 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 Mehmood 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

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 government 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.”

In April, 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

Pak, Afghan Taliban discuss peace in Doha talks