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Ex-Pakistani PM Seeks Role in Afghan Peace Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Islamabad, Asharq Al-Awsat- After attending a dinner banquet in Saudi Arabia at the end of September with Afghan leaders, some of whom are representatives of the Taliban Movement; former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif became convinced that he can use his influence within the Afghan leadership to achieve peace in Afghanistan. Sharif believes that he can restore his old connections with Afghan leaders and play a role in achieving peace in Afghanistan, which has suffered from war and its atrocities. He also believes that Pakistan will benefit from such a step.

Nawaz Sharif was the only Pakistani to participate in the dinner banquet hosted by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for a number of Afghan leaders, including former Taliban officials. The meeting discussed the situation in Afghanistan and possible means of resolving the conflicts from which the Afghan society is suffering. However, this meeting cannot be described as an official negotiation.

Among the Afghan leaders who participated in the meeting was Qayum Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s older brother; and Mullah Abdul Salam Daif, the Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan. Representatives of almost all Afghan factions attended the banquet. It is worth noting that Nawaz Sharif spent the last 17 days of the holy month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia.

Attending King Abdullah’s banquet was Sharif’s most important activity during his visit to Saudi Arabia. Sharif has no experience in handling foreign policy issues, although he is considered an expert at resolving Pakistan’s internal political problems.

Nawaz Sharif’s official spokesperson Sadiq al-Faruq told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If Nawaz Sharif is tasked with playing a role in establishing peace in Afghanistan, he will make sure he carries out this role.” Another leader from Nawaz Sharif’s party said that “Sharif extended his visit to Saudi Arabia for two more days in order to attend the banquet with the Afghan leaders.” As for Sadiq al-Faruq, he said that “Sharif is the only Pakistani leader who is capable of persuading Afghan leaders to work toward achieving peace in their country.” He added: “Sharif knows the Taliban and the mujahidin leaders.” He explained that “the former Pakistani prime minister was the one who helped all the conflicting Afghan factions reach an agreement in the 1990s.”

He noted that “during his tenure as prime minister, Pakistan recognized the Taliban government.” He said that “Nawaz Sharif’s government actually inherited this stance from Benazir Bhutto’s government, which had dealings with the Taliban since 1996.”

Following the parliamentary election in February 2008, several Pakistani media reports said that Sharif had entered into secret negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban Movement in an effort to settle the ongoing conflict in the Pakistani tribal region. Nevertheless, Al-Faruq tried to imply that “Nawaz Sharif has no contact with the Taliban leadership” and that “this will possibly thwart his mediation efforts between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.” Al-Faruq said: “As you may know, Nawaz Sharifis not in contact with the Taliban leadership and we do not know where Mullah Omar is.”

Currently, at a time when Nawaz Sharif is holding deliberative meetings with his aides to discuss the possible ways to play the role of mediator between Taliban leaders and Karzai’s government in Afghanistan, it is obvious that the Pakistani Government and its president, As if Ali Zardari, are unaware of the efforts that Sharif is making in this regard. A prominent official in the Pakistani Government said: “We know nothing about the kind of role that Nawaz Sharif is playing in Afghan politics.”