Kabul-Islamabad Cooperation on Peace Efforts
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pledged support for the Afghan peace efforts. Sharif was speaking at a press conference after he met President Hamid Karzai at the end of his one-day visit from Kabul on Saturday. Sharif’s explicit pledge to support the Afghan peace process is marking an important sign for the future of a mutual cooperation between the two countries over the peace talks with Taliban. This may mark the start of a genuine support of Pakistan that would lead to peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister is the latest in a series of diplomatic efforts for reviving the peace talks with the insurgents. The last time the two leaders met was in London at the trilateral summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Since Sharif has come to power in Pakistan, the two countries have move forward in expanding bilateral ties and finding a common ground on peace efforts in Afghanistan. Despite that there have been low publicity about the trip, the visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister seems to considerably help the two sides to explore pragmatic ways for starting negotiations with the Taliban.
Nawaz Sharif’s trip to Kabul takes place after a recent visit of an Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) delegation from Islamabad for meeting Taliban senior figure, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who reportedly has been released from prison. Despite Pakistan’s claims about release of Baradar, Afghanistan says he is still under restrictions while according to the Taliban he is still behind bars. His release and Afghanistan’s insistence for contacting him remains an unresolved issue between Kabul and Islamabad. A main demand of Afghanistan from Pakistan’s government after the reported release of Mullah Baradar has been to facilitate meetings between Afghan negotiators and the Taliban once second-in-command.
It seems there have been some progresses regarding Afghanistan’s demands for meeting Mullah Baradar. However, it is not clear whether the Afghan High Peace Council delegation has met Baradar and if the Pakistani government has arranged a secret meeting behind the Afghan delegation and the once right-hand man to Mullah Omar. Previously, the release of Mullah Baradar was on top of the list of Afghanistan’s demands and President Karzai was specifically vocal on asking Islamabad to arrange talks between him and Afghan diplomats. Nawaz Sharif’s trip to Kabul after the visit of the HPC delegation suggests that there may have been some sorts of arranged meetings as demanded by the Afghan government.
In general, the two countries have come a long way in boosting relations since Nawaz Sharif’s coming to power through a landslide victory. And, the two sides seem determined to further strengthen the bilateral relations and starting cooperation over the Afghan peace process. Furthermore, other developments in both countries have led Kabul and Islamabad to come even more in finding a common ground on terrorism and negotiation with the insurgent groups. In Pakistan, after the killing of the former Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud the Pakistani Taliban chose a more hard-line leader; while the Afghan Taliban showed unprecedented sympathy and support to the Pakistani Taliban. This is while in Afghanistan, the NATO withdrawal is looming, which further worries Pakistan on possible post-2014 instabilities on both sides of the shared borderline.