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ISLAMABAD: A deal between Pakistan and the US regarding a new bilateral commission to lure Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table was finalised during US special envoy to Pakistan Marc Grossman’s visit to Islamabad yesterday.
Details of the proposed commission were not immediately available; although sources disclose that the two countries will identify groups for reconciliation and facilitate smooth transition of power following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said the two countries were working on ‘several proposals’ on the future of Afghanistan but would not go into specifics. The formation of a commission had been in the pipeline for months, and Grossman’s recent visit proved to be momentous owing to significant grounds covered by both Pakistan and US.
The commission helped check the yawning trust deficit between the two sides. It was felt that the US had toned down rhetoric for an all-out offensive against the Haqqani network, in North Waziristan Agency (NWA).
Sources attributed the apparent change of tactics by the US to the agreement on the proposed bilateral commission, which will also encompass a solution to the Haqqani network. Privy to the significance of Grossman’s visit, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership had marathon consultations regarding the provisions of a Pak-US commission before his arrival.
Sources said a day before the envoy’s visit; Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar held a detailed meeting with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, both of them then held more discussions with PM Pervaiz Ashraf.
Pakistan, which is considered key for any peace deal in Afghanistan, has often been accused of double play.
But on its part Islamabad is concerned over attempts by the US to keep the country at bay over its future plans for Afghanistan.
An official said, “The proposed bilateral commission will help reduce the trust deficit between the two sides”. The official added that international players had started acknowledging the fact Pakistan could not be bypassed for any peace process in Afghanistan.
Grossman, who wrapped up his two-day trip to Islamabad, appreciated Pakistan’s support for an Afghan political process, including through the US-Afghanistan-Pakistan Core Group. His remarks appeared to suggest the two countries made certain progress on the Afghan endgame.
In a television interview, Grossman insisted he did not come here to push Pakistan for a military offensive in NWA, a revelation which went quite contrary to speculations made about his visit. “Pakistan will make its own decisions about what is in its interests,” said the envoy.
Despite black-listing the Haqqani network, the US has not ruled out the possibility of reconciliation with the group, which has been accused of carrying out some of very daring attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan.