Pakistan has recently taken the lead in fast-tracking the Intra-Afghan peace process. After the Afghan Taliban delegation’s recent visit to Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has now extended an offer for Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Dr Abdullah to visit Pakistan for talks, in order to establish a roadmap for ending the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. This is a positive step by the PM to proactively engage all key stakeholders in the process for quick resolution.

We have seen some progress in the discussions recently. President Ghani’s Loya Jirga saw positive results, and the statement by the Foreign Minister after meeting the Afghan Taliban committee has indicated that both sides are becoming increasingly willing to engage with one another.

But this process is on a clock as well. With 8600 US troops remaining, and another 4000 expected to leave by the end of the year, there is evidence to suggest that the outcome of the presidential elections will not change the US’ position on Afghanistan; they want out as soon as possible.

Both sides must now release the final group of prisoners and move towards the next phase of negotiations; direct engagement with one another, and seeking a permanent drawdown in violence. The second issue is the one that the war-weary people of Afghanistan have been seeking for decades.

Sections of the populace, especially the ones traditionally marginalised and hit worst in the fighting—women, children and the youth—need to start seeing at least glimpses of the power sharing system or structure of governance that will be implemented once foreign troops have pulled out. Then there is also the question of the potential spoilers to peace; ISIS and other warring factions that are vying to gain more of a foothold in Afghanistan. Both sides have a lot of issues to discuss; it is time they start sitting at the same table as well.