Veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s three-day visit to Pakistan on Monday is yet another indication of the significance of facilitators such as Pakistan in the peace process. After the Doha agreement and direct discussions between the two sides—the Afghan government and Taliban—they are still having a hard time finding the middle ground on key issues such as the political future of the country and guaranteeing rights. This is where external mediators can step in and smooth out any creases where necessary. This visit will help in establishing Pakistan’s role as one of the key proponents of peace in the region and Afghanistan specifically.

However, this is easier said than done. As mentioned above, there are a lot of things that the two sides have yet to find common ground on. The future of the Afghan state is embroiled in debate. The Taliban and the government are still poles apart on the dispensation of rights in the country. The power sharing formula is also not clear; will the Afghan state and the Taliban work in conjunction, or take specific demarcated roles going forward?

One thing that looks to be almost certain is that pulling out all US troops by the end of the year without an exit strategy in place is going to do more harm than good. The Taliban have already pointed towards the aerial strikes as a breach in the Doha Agreement, even though the government has also accused their opponents of upping the ante on civilian deaths.

Both sides are nowhere near where the other wants them to be. With so many differences it is difficult to see a conclusive solution by the end of the year. It is hoped that all stakeholders in Afghanistan know that there is a need to speed up talks where possible. Ultimately, this peace is needed urgently for civilians and their future; less so to ascertain who gets power and in what set up. If civilians are kept as the focal point in these discussions, we might just see a positive resolution being found a little more quickly.