Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday held a meeting with Army Commander General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed to discuss, as per the official leaflet, “matters of national security”.
No further details were provided by the Prime Minister’s Office but observers believe the meeting may be linked to the current Afghanistan situation especially after the Biden Administration announced to review the peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban.
A high-level meeting at the PM’s office is believed to have taken place to finalize the Pakistan strategy as the Biden Administration will soon formally contact Islamabad to discuss peace efforts in Afghanistan.
Army Commander General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad today. ISI chairman Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid was also present at the meeting. Matters relating to National Security were discussed at the meeting pic.twitter.com/Xs2nOkW2uc
– The Express Tribune (@etribune) January 25, 2021
Pakistan has played a key role in facilitating and brokering the February 29 deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban while at the same time working closely with all stakeholders to make inroads during the intra-Afghan dialogue.
The announcement by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that the Biden administration would review a peace agreement with the Taliban was followed very closely in Pakistan. Officials here say they are waiting for more details to find out what kind of overview the new US government will seek.
Following telephone conversations between the US and Afghan National Security Advisors, authorities in Kabul on Saturday recaptured 600 Taliban fighters, who were released earlier as part of a landmark February 29 deal. The Afghan government defended the decision by suggesting that Taliban fighters had returned to the battlefield.
Likewise, the office of the President of Afghanistan also welcomed the announcement of a review of the peace agreement with the Taliban. Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a statement on Saturday that the US-Taliban agreement had so far failed to achieve the desired goal of ending Taliban violence and establishing a ceasefire. “The Taliban are not living up to their commitments,” he said.
This raises concerns that peace efforts may slip or run into serious obstacles.
Against this backdrop, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi placed a phone call with Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar on Monday. Without explicitly mentioning the Biden administration’s intention to review the peace deal, Qureshi said the Intra-Afghanistan Negotiations had provided a window of opportunity for a return to lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has always argued that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and a political solution is the only way forward,” Qureshi quoted the foreign office as saying.
“Pakistan will continue to play a positive role in supporting the Afghanistan Peace Process and strengthening bilateral relations with Afghanistan,” he added.
Reaffirming Pakistan’s consistent support for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs underlined that the Intra-Afghanistan (IAN) negotiations provide a historic opportunity for the Afghan leadership to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Minister expressed concern over the high level of violence in Afghanistan and emphasized progress in the IAN which would also facilitate a reduction in violence, leading to a ceasefire.
Highlighting Pakistan’s policy of strengthening trade between the two countries, Foreign Minister Qureshi drew the attention of Foreign Minister Atmar to the proposed establishment of a Border Maintenance Market. He underlined that it was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special initiative to increase local trade and economic activity in the border region. The Foreign Minister expressed his hope that the MoU could be completed as soon as possible.
In the summons, Foreign Minister Qureshi also raised the issue of Pakistani prisoners who have been incarcerated in Afghan prisons for minor crimes. He expressed hope that the prisoners would be released in accordance with the president’s decree, giving them the opportunity to return to their families.