Pakistani generals in Bahrain, discussing Afghan peace process

Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Qamar Bajwa, accompanied by the ISI director, Lt General Faiz Hamid, attended a meeting on the Afghan peace process held in Bahrain on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Dawn reported today, Thursday, March 11.

Quoting Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations, Dawn reported that the Pakistani generals discussed developments in the Afghan peace process and necessary steps to be taken to facilitate an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process” with top Bahraini security officials.

This is the first overt high-level meeting between the Pakistani generals and Bahrain’s top security officials on the Afghan peace process.  Bahrain’s Nation Guard Field Marshal, Mohammed Bin Isa Al Khalifa, and Bahraini National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, have met with Pakistan’s chief of army staff and ISI general director.

The meeting comes at a critical time as the US is seeking to accelerate a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban militants. As part of the fresh push, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in a letter to the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, underlined the urgency of talks for a power-sharing settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In February last year, the US signed a peace pact with the Taliban. Under the pact, the Taliban had to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government, give a counterterrorism guarantee, and in return, the US made a commitment to pull out its troops from the country by May 2021. In September 2020, the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives, for the first time in 19 years, held several consultation meetings in Doha, Qatar. But the talks stalled as the two sides became bogged in setting principles and terms of reference (TOR) on a substantive negotiation.

Meanwhile, Russia will host a multilateral conference on the Afghan peace process which is scheduled to take place in coming Thursday, March 18, in Moscow, the capital of Russia. The Moscow meeting takes place as part of international efforts to bring the Afghan warring parties under a united political umbrella and form an inclusive government.

Last Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons arrived in Qatar to push the Taliban representatives to accelerate talks and agree to a ceasefire that is a longstanding demand raised by the Afghan government.

The meeting between the Pakistan generals and Bahraini security officials took place a day after US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad visited Pakistan. On Monday, March 08, Khalilzad met with General Bajwa and the two sides discussed the need for “a just and durable peace” in Afghanistan.

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