At the beginning of July 2015, Pakistan hosted a meeting of representatives of the Afghan Government and the Tehreek-e-Taliba
Unlike the meetings that had taken place earlier, the participants of the first round of the negotiations were vested with authorities (according to the statement of the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan). Islamabad christened them as “groundbreaking.
The Delegation of the Tehreek-e-Taliba
The parties expressed their intention to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region and acknowledged that it would be necessary to develop confidence-build
The meeting in Murree was considered (in Afghanistan, Pakistan and by the international community) an important initial step on the path to a political settlement in the Afghanistan-Paki
It took months to persuade Talibs to come to the negotiating table. In past years, attempts to arrange such meetings were undertaken. In 2012, the US planned to organize the first round in Qatar, but then president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai declined it. Talibs hung up the Afghani flag above the doors of their office, and Karzai assumed it to be a gesture demonstrating an intent to form a parallel government of Afghanistan—a government in exile. At that time, Islamabad supported Kabul because it assumed that it had also been outflanked even before the scheduled negotiations took place in Doha.
In 2015, the political situation in the region changed. In December 2014, the core contingent of the coalition US/NATO troops was withdrawn from Afghanistan on the account of the completion of the combat mission. Immediately regional players “embarked on” the peace process in Afghanistan. In May of this year talks intermediated by Pakistan were held in Chinese Ürümqi, but at that timeTaliban’s Spokesman Zabihu
A month later, an informal meeting took place in Oslo. Although all the mentioned negotiations (in Dubai, China, Norway and other places) were indeed held, they were not officially sanctioned by the leadership of the Tehreek-e-Taliba
The negotiations in Murree were held amid a number of terrorist attacks (including the one on the building of Parliament in Kabul on June 22, 2015), a Taliban offensive in the southern, eastern and central provinces of Afghanistan and an upsurge of tension in the Pakistani-Afghan relations, triggered by a number of circumstances.
In July, Islamabad showed its dissociation from the meeting held in Murree and emphasized that it was just an organizer of the meeting and that the desire of the parties to come to the negotiating table was unbiased.
But, leaping ahead, we should point out that Islamabad was the first to reap the fruits of the process. Just hours before the commencement of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), held on July 9, 2015, an item concerning a long-term accession of India and Pakistan to the Organization was put on the agenda, by which the civil-military establishment of Pakistan showed:
- itself as the author of the process of reconciliation in the Afghanistan-Paki
- the flexibility and ability to “bring” opposite parties that had been irreconcilable opponents and feudists for thirteen years to the negotiating table,
- the ability to “neutralize” harsh criticism coming from the opposition-minde
- the ability to “neutralize” the charges of support of terrorists by Islamabad, brought forth by Delhi. In addition, behind the scene of the SCO, Prime Minister of Pakistan Meehan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif handed an official invitation to the 2016 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, scheduled to take place in Islamabad, to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mody and managed to receive his consent. It should also be mentioned that relations between the neighboring countries are seriously strained. In 2015, armed clashes were registered along the Kashmire’s cease-fire line and the operating margin.
- the ability to diminish the influence of the Tehreek-e-Taliba
Diplomacy of Pakistan also succeeded in the organization of the world press and formation of a public opinion in the days when negotiations were held in Murree, which were recognized at the international level and by UN.
Foreign Ministry of Pakistan repeatedly reminded that it acted exclusively as a mediator in the process, but the very fact that the organization of negotiations between the authorized persons became possible at all testifies to strong and confidential contacts of Islamabad with the leadership of the Tehreek-e-Taliba
The participants of the negotiations held in Murree had come to an agreement to hold another round after the end of Ramadan, which demonstrates their genuine commitment to the continuation of the process of settlement in the region.
Several days after the conclusion of the negotiations in Murree, Pakistani newspaper The Nation published an article confirming that the leader of Afghan Taliban Mullah Muhammad Omar (the Emir of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, 1996–2001) acknowledged his satisfaction with the Pakistan’s role as a mediator in the process. At the same time, it was emphasized that “it remains obligatoryupon us to continue our sacred Jihad to liberate our beloved homeland and restore an Islamic system.”
Natalya Zamaraeva, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, Pakistan Institute for Near-East Studies, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.