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Pakistan to include Taliban in peace talks

Pakistan to include Taliban in peace talks
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants the Taliban to become part of the political process and participate in peace talks. The move to involve the militant group comes as part of a push to revitalize the peace process with neighboring Afghanistan.

In an interview with a British television channel, Sharif said that he wants to include the Taliban in the peace council, adding that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had been tasked with opening dialogue with the Islamist organization, reported the Daily Times.

“We are serious in our efforts to hold dialogue with the Taliban,” stressed Sharif, saying talks with the group were a necessary step to bring peace to the whole region. Furthermore, Sharif underlined he fully supported Afghanistan in its quest for peace and offered technical assistance in next year’s elections.

Minister Sharif is in London for peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Kharzai and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. All three parties confirmed their commitment to the ongoing peace process ahead of the final withdrawal of US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan in December 2014.

Moreover, Afghanistan said they had reached a breakthrough with Pakistan and would send a delegation to speak with the Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. One of the main aims of the negotiations for the Afghan side was to discern the whereabouts of Taliban commander Mullah Mohammad Omar’s right-hand-man who was released from a Pakistani prison last month.

The Afghan government believes he is a key figure in establishing dialogue with the militant group.

"The leaders of the three countries spoke about Pakistan's role in the peace process and it was agreed that the High Peace Council delegation would travel to Pakistan in the near future to meet Mullah Baradar," the Afghan presidential palace said in a statement. Baradar remains under close supervision by Pakistani authorities.

In the run-up to negotiations, the Afghan government said they also wanted Pakistan to play a role in preventing terrorists from crossing the border into Afghanistan.

"Pakistan can play a role to maintain Afghanistan security for upcoming elections because these terrorists are coming from the other side of the Durrand Line (border) to Afghanistan," Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi told AFP.

The Karzai government has voiced concerns in the past that Taliban militants use areas close to the Afghan-Pakistan border as safe havens from which to launch attacks. Islamabad categorically denies that it harbors terrorists on its territory.

Tensions have been running high in Afghanistan as militant attacks continue unchecked ahead of next year’s scheduled pull out. President Karzai is attempting to establish a deal with the Taliban before the withdrawal of some 87,000 NATO forces in December of next year.

With alliance forces gone, security responsibilities will be left to Afghan forces whose limited resources and training may see them hard-pressed to maintain control of the country.