Afghan officials and an insurgent group reacted positively to an impassioned appeal from Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for all stakeholders to enter into an intra-Afghan dialogue in order to stabilise their country.
The Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) - the group led by former warlord Gulbudin Hekmatyar - welcomed the initiative and even offered to lend its support to what it said was a “vindication of its principled stand”.
“We’ve been saying all along that all stakeholders in the Afghan imbroglio should sit together, discuss the issue threadbare, and come up with a viable solution without foreign interference,” the group’s political whip Dr Ghairat Baheer said.
Asked if the Hizb-e-Islami would declare a ceasefire following the Pakistan leader’s appeal, Baheer said, “Once the Afghans agree on a full package, a ceasefire will automatically come into force.”
However, he cautioned that an intra-Afghan dialogue would not take place until the US-led Nato forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
Unless peace returns to Afghanistan, the Hizb leader said, it is not possible to guarantee peace in Pakistan.
“The interests of Pakistan and Afghanistan are inter-woven. Our destiny is common,” he added.
The Taliban, on the other hand, reacted cautiously to the move. Their spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told that the Taliban leadership would discuss the matter and issue a formal reaction.
Afghan Ambassador Omar Daudzai said the Pakistani leader’s move was “positive” but he challenged him to take “practical steps”.
“Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Hamid Karzai had agreed in their recent telephone conversation to launch such appeals,” Daudzai said by phone from Kabul.
“We hope that all sides in Afghanistan will come up with a positive response to the Pakistani prime minister’s appeal,” he added.
The Afghan High Peace Council - a body formed by President Karzai to talk to the Taliban - has also welcomed the move. Echoing Daudzai’s remarks, a senior member of the peace council said, “This is a positive step, but Pakistan should take practical steps to help resolve the Afghan crisis.”
“This is important because it’s the first time an elected prime minister of Pakistan has come out to make such an appeal,” Maulvi Arsala Rahmani said.