Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made his first public appeal Friday for the Taliban to participate in peace talks with the Afghan government, a potentially significant move given Islamabad’s perceived influence over the militants.
The prime minister was responding to a request by Afghanistan’s president for Islamabad to support the peace process. Kabul wants Pakistan to facilitate access to Taliban leaders.
There are signs that momentum for peace talks has been growing, especially with the Taliban move to set up a political office in the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. But the group has said it would prefer to negotiate with the United States, which has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, rather than the Afghan government.
This sentiment has reportedly triggered concern in Afghanistan and Pakistan that the neighboring countries could be sidelined in the peace talks.
“I would like to appeal to the Taliban leadership as well as to all other Afghan groups, including Hizb-e-Islami, to participate in an intra-Afghan process for national reconciliation and peace,” Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said
The prime minister’s statement was significant./>
Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently held talks in Islamabad with Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders about the peace process.
He later issued a public statement saying Pakistan’s support for talks with the Taliban would be “crucial.”