Islamabad, Asharq Al-Awsat – Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif is willing to his use influence within the Afghan leadership to bring about peace in Afghanistan, he said after attending a dinner meeting with Afghan leaders including Taliban representatives in Saudi Arabia last month.
Nawaz Sharif stated that he believes that he could restore ties with contacts in the Afghan leadership in order to establish peace in the war-torn country, which, in turn, will benefit Pakistan.
The former PM was the only Pakistani present during the dinner meeting held by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia for over a dozen Afghan leaders including former Taliban officials.
The meeting discussed the situation in Afghanistan and potential solutions to the conflict in that country, however, any negotiations within the meeting could not be described as formal.
Afghan leaders such as Qayum Karzai, the elder brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef also attended the dinner meeting. Most Afghan factions were represented at the meeting.
Nawaz Sharif spent the last 17 days of the holy month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and attended the dinner hosted by the Saudi King, which he described as the highlight of his stay in Saudi Arabia.
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, who is considered an expert in resolving Pakistan’s domestic political problems, lacks experience in dealing with foreign policy issues. However, his stay in Saudi Arabia has prepared him for tackling foreign policy matters.
Talking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Siddiqul Farooq, spokesperson for Nawaz Sharif, said, “If he [Sharif] is designated any role to play in bringing peace to Afghanistan, he would be more than willing to do so.”
Another leader within Nawaz Sharif’s party said that he delayed his departure from Saudi Arabia for two days in order to take part in this dinner meeting with Afghan leaders.
“He is the one leader in Pakistan who would be able to convince the Afghan leaders to establish peace in their country…He is familiar with the Taliban leadership and the Mujahideen leaders,” Farooq said.
Siddiqul Farooq also highlighted that Nawaz Sharif brokered a deal between various warring Afghan factions in the early 1990s.
It was during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure as prime minister that Pakistan recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan; however his government actually inherited the situation from the previous government of Benazir Bhutto which had been dealing with the Taliban from 1996, explained Farooq.
Immediately after the parliamentary elections in February 2008, the Pakistani media reported that Nawaz Sharif had entered secret negotiations with Pakistani Taliban to reach a settlement to the conflict in Pakistani tribal regions.
However spokesman Siddiqul Farooq stressed that Nawaz Sharif did not have any contact with the Taliban leadership, as this could hinder the mediation process between the Taliban and Karzai’s government in Afghanistan. “Nawaz Sharif does not have any contact with the Taliban leadership; we do not know where Mullah Omar is,” said Farooq.
The Pakistani government and President Asif Ali Zardari are unaware of Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to mediate between the Afghan government and the Taliban. A senior government official in Pakistan said, “We know nothing about the role Nawaz Sharif is playing in Afghan politics.”