After nearly two years of negotiations, the United States and Afghan Taliban are set to sign the peace deal which could end the decades-long conflict. Pakistan, who played a crucial role in the entire peace process, has also been invited to witness the historic moment in Doha.
Just days prior to the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan jetted off on a brief one-day visit to Doha where he met Emir of Qatar. Not much has been disclosed except that agreements on trade and tourism were signed. The Foreign Office termed it a regular exchange of high-level visits focused on strengthening bilateral cooperation and exchanging views on regional developments.
The timing of the visit is crucial just days before the peace deal signing. Qatar has also played a role in facilitating mediation between the US and the Afghan Taliban, who established their political office in Doha. The prime minister acknowledged the Qatari government’s efforts and reiterated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process.
Both leaders agreed that this is a historic opportunity and Afghans should seize the historic opportunity to establish durable peace and stability. Despite a week of relative calm due to the partial truce, many Afghans are bracing for eventual violence and a long process to reach an inclusive political settlement. The peace deal is not just the end of the Afghan conflict but a step towards a future.
Another crucial issue that was discussed was the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan seems to be turning towards Qatar after being abandoned by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries on the Kashmir dispute. The OIC has been reluctant to even discuss the issue and has reportedly rejected Pakistan’s request to hear it in the next meeting. Qatar has faced a two-year blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies, and discussing the Kashmir dispute will raise quite a few eyebrows.
The visit also comes in the backdrop of the KL Summit that Pakistan skipped over pressure from Saudi Arabia. Qatar was one of three countries leading the summit and Pakistan has sought to retain cordial relations to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment. PM Imran Khan visited Malaysia soon after and then hosted Turkish President Erdogan earlier this month.
Pakistan’s engagement with these three countries seems to send a signal that it could also build a relationship with other countries as well. The prime minister is personally reaching out to these countries to maintain cordial ties as relations should not be strained at the cost of those with another country. The leadership skills of the prime minister demonstrate that is making efforts to avoid a diplomatic crisis.