ISLAMABAD – Pakistan will not take part in the next round of Doha talks between the United States and the Taliban.
Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal, however, reiterated that Pakistan is committed to the Afghan peace process and emphasised the importance of an intra-Afghan dialogue to lead the way forward to achieve durable peace in the war-torn country.
The seventh round of talks between the Taliban, US delegation, Afghan politicians, and the Afghan government is expected to be held in Qatar’s capital Doha later this month.
“Pakistan will not take part in Doha peace talks. However, Pakistan is committed to bring peace in Afghanistan through an Intra-Afghan dialogue”, Dr Faisal said.
Faisal said: “There will also be an intra-Afghan dialogue on 14th and 15th of this month, organised by Russia.”
The first such meeting was held in Moscow in February this year. Pakistan had supported the peace talks in the past.
According to Russia’s Sputnik news agency, the Pakistani Foreign Office did not give any reason for backing out of the Doha talks, but the recent exchanges of words and diplomatic posturing between Pakistan and Afghanistan have showed that there are a number of issues to iron out.
US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has visited Kabul and Islamabad twice over the past week to muster support for the ensuing peace process. The Afghan government will be officially taking part in the peace dialogue and has reportedly constituted a 22-member negotiating team to talk with the Taliban.
Khalilzad had said in a release issued by his office on Sunday informing that he had discussed with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and others on how to ensure that intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, in which representatives of the Afghan government and civil society members will participate, would best advance the shared goal of accelerating the settlement process.
Khalilzad also discussed with Pakistani heads about how peace in Afghanistan could benefit Pakistan and unlock opportunities for regional economic integration and development. “The United States looks to Pakistan to continue playing a positive role in supporting the peace process,” he added.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi received Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Shukrullah Atif Mashal in Islamabad and discussed the progress of the peace process. The two countries affirmed the full utilisation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to improve the trust between the two neighbours.
In his weekly briefing yesterday, Dr Faisal said Pakistan has handed another set of questions to India on the Pulwama incident and is awaiting the response.
He said India had so far not provided any actionable intelligence that could prove Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama incident.
“We have handed over a further set of questions regarding the Pulwama incident to Indian High Commission. We are awaiting their response,” Faisal said.
This month, Islamabad had ruled out any Pakistani involvement as it shared preliminary findings with New Delhi after examining the Indian report on Pulwama incident.
Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Ajay Bisaria was called by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and the findings on the Pulwama incident were shared with him.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier offered cooperation in investigation if credible evidence was provided by India. In response to this offer, a paper was handed over to Pakistan on February 27.
Pakistan said additional information and documents would be required from India to continue the process of investigations into the Pulwama incident. Pakistan also expressed the commitment to take the process of investigation of Pulwama incident to logical conclusion.
At a briefing given by the Foreign Office to the diplomats from across the world here, officials said Pakistan’s initial findings on the Indian paper related to Pulwama incident had been shared with New Delhi.
Dr Faisal said Pakistan had agreed to the technical meeting on Kartarpur in good spirit to be held on Tuesday at Zero Line at Kartarpur Sahib.
He said that Pakistan was ready for April 2 meeting and there was no issue from our side. “We will be ready in future too, as all issues can be resolved through talks only,” he added.
Dr Faisal said Pakistan had completely rejected the Indian intention of scrapping Article 370 of its constitution that guarantees autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the issue of Kashmir could be resolved only according to UN Security Council resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiris.
The Foreign Office spokesperson said that Pakistan has been consistently raising the issue of human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir at the United Nations.
“If India takes any step towards the scrapping of Article 370, Pakistan will not only raise this issue at the world body level but also with India,” he warned.
Faisal said that Indian repression of Kashmiris cannot break their demand of self-determination. To a question, he said there was credible intelligence that India could launch a misadventure against Pakistan this month.
He said Pakistan will respond decisively if its resolve is tested by India. He said the level of threat emanating from India is still high.
About the US CENTCOM chief’s visit to Pakistan, Dr Faisal said it was the first visit of General Kenneth McKenzie to Pakistan after assuming his charge.
“The purpose of visit was to interact with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discuss professional matters with him. He also paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Imran Khan,” the spokesperson elaborated.