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ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan wants Pakistan to issue passports to Taliban cadres to facilitate their transit to Arab countries for peace talks, according to an Afghan diplomat.
Despite the collapse of the Qatar peace initiative earlier this year, Taliban negotiators and their families are still living in the Arabian Gulf state. And several more Taliban cadres are in the process of shifting to Qatar and other states.
Saudi Arabia has also invited several Taliban leaders for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage as part of its possible role in the Afghan peace process.
According to Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul Muhammad Sadiq, Islamabad was to facilitate the transit of Taliban leaders to Qatar.
“We are negotiating with Pakistanis for passports to Taliban leaders to facilitate their travel to Arab states,” an Afghan diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
He added that the Afghan government’s request was in line with an agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States to allow a “safe passage” to reconcilable Taliban leaders and their representatives.
In April this year, the three countries had agreed to form the “safe passage” mechanism to facilitate those Taliban leaders who were willing to renounce violence and negotiate peace.
However, the Taliban militia had dismissed it as an attempt to create rifts within its ranks.
This facility (Pakistani passport) will enable the Taliban leaders to hold direct talks with the Afghan government’s representatives and members of the Afghan High Peace Council, according to the Afghan diplomat.
Afghan authorities have also taken up the issue of passports and safe passage with US officials, he added.
The Afghan government’s demand comes amidst reports that Saudi Arabia is keen on actively taking part in the Afghan reconciliation process.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council who had also served as the Taliban’s ambassador in Islamabad, said Riyadh could play an important role in promoting the Afghan peace process.
“The kingdom will be willing to play such a role only if all important regional countries agree to it, show a political will to (solve the) Afghanistan (crisis) and also give up their own interests,” said Mujahid.
The possible Saudi role is likely to assume more importance in the coming months, as there is no immediate possibility of the resumption of the initiative.
A Pakistani official also argued that the Saudi role will gain importance if the Qatar deadlock persisted.
In March 2012, the Taliban had walked out of the Qatar talks, accusing the US of reneging on key promises.