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High-level Taliban delegation in Pakistan for Afghan peace process

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Islamabad, Aug 24: A high-level delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Doha arrived in Pakistan on Monday to discuss the way forward in the Afghan peace process with the Pakistani leadership.

High-level Taliban delegation in Pakistan for Afghan peace process

The Taliban delegation led by their political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is visiting Islamabad at the invitation of the country's foreign office. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters that he would meet the Taliban delegation on Tuesday.

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He said that Pakistan was playing a facilitating role on the Afghan issue which led to a peace agreement between the US and the Taliban and now it's up to Afghans to decide the way forward.

“The next logical step is intra-Afghan dialogue, which should be started at the earliest,” he said, adding that China was also supporting the Afghan peace process. “The majority of Afghans believe the only way forward is through reconciliation but the decision to reconcile has to be taken by Afghans themselves,” Qureshi said.

He said the people in Afghanistan desire peace and stability but “there are some spoilers, who want to disturb peace in Afghanistan”.

The Afghan Taliban spokesperson also confirmed that a delegation led by Mullah Baradar is visiting Islamabad and other capitals to discuss the Afghan peace efforts. This is the second visit of Mullah Baradar to Pakistan in the last 10 months. He visited Islamabad in October last year when President Donald Trump abruptly called off the peace talks with the Taliban, citing the militant group's continued attacks against the US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan at that time had arranged a meeting between the Taliban delegation led by Mullah Baradar and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. That meeting had helped the process to be back on track, which eventually culminated in the landmark deal signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29.

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The deal envisages a roadmap for the US troops’ withdrawal in return for the Taliban agreeing not to let Afghan soil be ever used again by any terrorist group. The visit of the Afghan delegation comes as preparations are being made to kick start the next phase of Afghan peace process, which is the intra-Afghan talks.

The intra-Afghan dialogue has been delayed for months because of differences between the Afghan government and the Taliban over the release of Taliban prisoners. Recently, the final hurdle was removed when Afghan Loya Jirga - tribal grand assembly - endorsed President Ashraf Ghani's move to free the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners. The development has now paved the way for the much-awaited intra-Afghan dialogue, media reports said. The first round is expected to take place in Doha, capital of Qatar.

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