Pak asks Afghan to abide by a prisoner swap clause

Pakistan urges Afghan Govt to create 'favourable environment' for intra-Afghan dialogue

Pakistan on Tuesday called on the Afghan government to create a "favourable environment" for intra-Afghan dialogue, warning that the peace and reconciliation process with Taliban would not move forward if any side showed "stubbornness".

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a statement called on President Ashraf Ghani to abide by a prisoner swap clause in the US-Taliban peace deal, the rejection of which saw the Taliban resume attacks on Afghan forces in the northeast of the country.

“It is the responsibility of the Afghan leadership to create a favourable environment to take the talks forward," Qureshi said.

The intra-Afghan negotiations are due to begin March 10 according to a US-Taliban deal signed in Doha on Saturday, but a dispute over a prisoner swap has raised questions about whether they will go ahead.

The agreement includes a commitment for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 prisoners and for the Afghan government to free around 5,000 insurgent captives -- something the militants have cited as a prerequisite for talks but which President Ghani has refused to do before negotiations start.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan cannot take decision on the part of Afghans. “Pakistan can create a favourable environment, it cannot take (Afghanistan's) decisions, he said.

Qureshi reminded the parties to Afghan conflict that the agreement signed by the US and Taliban representative on Saturday in Doha contained provisions for exchange of prisoners.

“Exchange of prisoners has happened in the past. When we move from war towards peace, it needs to be done to show a positive intention," the foreign minister said.

 

He warned that the process of peace and reconciliation would not move forward if any side showed "stubbornness". He urged the parties to take “confidence-building” steps in order to move forward.

Qureshi said that intra-Afghan process was a test of Afghan leadership and it would show if the Afghans were ready to leave the past behind and work for peace.

He said that Doha agreement was just the first step, though an important on, for a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan would continue to provide support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Qureshi said that the Taliban pledged that would not allow “al Qaeda or any terrorist organization to operate in Afghanistan.”

The foreign minister warned that the “spoilers” were not would be uncomfortable with the deal but there were many people who are comfortable with it.

“There are many who feel that it is in Afghanistan’s long-term interest. It is in region’s long term interest and it is essential for global peace and stability,” he said.

Earlier, the peace process got was shock when Ghani said that prisoners would be released.

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