Pakistan to host Afghan peace conference from tomorrow

FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses a press conference.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) has announced that Pakistan would host a three-day conference on Afghanistan from tomorrow (Saturday) to give a fresh impetus to the efforts for peace there.

In a statement, FO Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said, “Pakistan is hosting the Afghan Peace Conference on July 17-19 to provide momentum to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan.”Afghanistan’s political leadership has been invited to the conference.

According to Afghan media, 21 prominent Afghan leaders including Abdullah Abdullah, Karim Khalili, Mohammad Younus Qanooni, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Salahuddin Rabbani, Ismail Khan, Ata Mohammad Noor, Sayed Hamed Gailani, Sayed Eshaq Gailani, Batur Dostum and Mirwais Yasini have been invited to the conference in Islamabad.

The FO spokesperson informed that a number of them have already confirmed their participation. Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to extend an invitation to President Ashraf Ghani. Both of them are currently in Uzbekistan and would together attend a conference on regional connectivity on Friday.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson clarified that Taliban were not among the invitees as they had already visited Pakistan many times and held detailed discussions on the peace process.

“The aim of the forthcoming peace conference is to engage with and consult all sides on the Afghan peace process. We hope that this conference will provide impetus to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan,” the spokesman added.

However, some reports have claimed that the conference could be postponed because its timing clashes with visit of some of the invitees to Doha for a meeting with Taliban over the weekend.

The conference in Islamabad is being held at a time when withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is nearing completion and Taliban have made significant territorial gains. Meanwhile, the peace talks in Doha have been stalemated.

It is feared by Pakistan and regional countries that the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan could result in a security vacuum, which could be exploited by terrorist organisations.