An exclusive interview with the Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, carried in this paper has revealed the agenda for the talks between Pakistani officials and the Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his impending visit to Pakistan. The release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, still the most senior Taliban figure captured by Pakistan, features prominently on the list, indicating that talks with the Taliban, while sabotaged in Doha, are still on the agenda for Kabul, not just Washington. Pakistan’s active participation in facilitating the peace process is also likely to be asked for, as well as further releases of some Afghan prisoners, other than Mullah Baradar.
Mullah Baradar is seen by the Karzai regime as crucial to its own efforts to carry through a peace process. The prisoner is considered to be the only interlocutor between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
At the same time, President Karzai asking Pakistan to help the reconciliation process is tacit acknowledgement that ensuring lasting peace will only be possible without Pakistani help. This acknowledgement will no doubt cause great consternation in Delhi, which has been overly optimistic about its chances in Kabul.
Pakistan must be wary of releasing Taliban prisoners, many of whom, when last released, stayed on in Pakistan, instead of returning to Afghanistan. The fact that Mullah Fazlullah, the mastermind behind attacks on Pakistani troops and citizens, roams free in Afghanistan, should also be something added to the agenda of talks between President Karzai and PM Sharif.
The future of peace in the region is tied to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The success of President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan and mutually assured cooperation is much to be desired. One hopes that the policy of interference has once and for all been abandoned and the new administration has a plan in place to facilitate the Afghan-led peace process and ensure stability for the upcoming elections. NATO troops may withdraw, but Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot change their neighborhood.