Hours after the story broke that the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government have restarted secret talks in the Gulf state of Qatar, rejections came pouring in. First, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected any reports of talks or meetings and maintained the stance of no negotiations till all foreign troops leave the country. Soon after, Afghan officials also chimed in, rejecting the sources cited by the newspaper that first published the story.

The reports may be denied, but official denials on peace negotiations have turned out to be false in the past – and these must be taken with a pinch of salt too. The Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani has always maintained that a brokered peace is his ultimate objective and even during months of heavy fighting between the insurgents and security forces, he has maintained that “all options are on the table.”

Furthermore, considering that the traditional ‘fighting season’ is coming to an end, and the Afghan government made a peace deal last month with Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who fought against the US-backed regime for more than a decade – there is a healthy chance that contact was made with the Taliban too.

This contact, and the reported meetings in Qatar, are important for two reasons. These are the first known negotiations to have taken place since a Pakistan-brokered process entirely broke down following the death in a US drone strike of Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. Second; Pakistan is not involved in this round of talks at all.

This makes the process entirely Afghan-initiated and Afghan-owned, which is beneficial for all parties. A frequent refrain whenever talks broke down was Pakistan’s alleged malintent and vested interests. Such accusations have further soured the tenuous relationship between the countries despite the administration’s best diplomatic advances. Pakistan’s limited influence over some Taliban leaders proved to be a double-edged sword – it bought the Taliban to the negotiating table, but lost us moral authority for being in a position to influence them at all. With Afghanistan taking the lead, Pakistan is spared the stigma.

Any resulting agreement – unlikely as that is – will also be Afghanistan’s doing; and only it will be responsible for its success and failure – freeing Pakistan from the vicious cycle of bad press when it comes to Afghanistan.