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A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press
AHEAD of general elections in Pakistan (2013) and Afghanistan (2014), and on the heels of the US presidential election, a high-profile reconciliation process between these three states and the Taliban was successfully initiated this week in Islamabad. The "chairman of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan", Salahuddin Rabbani, is in Pakistan and has secured the release of key Taliban prisoners from its jails and asked for the Afghan Taliban's number two, Mullah Baradar. This could be a turning point in the peace process before the US-led Nato troops withdraw from Afghanistan by end-2014. Post-2014, Pakistan's engagement will be a decisive factor in reshaping Afghanistan's destiny.
Daily Times reported on November 16: "'After releasing 13 Taliban, Pakistan promised to free Mullah Baradar if these releases prove effective in peace negotiations,' a senior Afghan official close to talks between Islamabad and Kabul said... Asked if Baradar would also be freed, a senior Pakistani Foreign Ministry official said that was possible if the release of the Taliban figures 'produced results'." Baradar was arrested in Karachi in 2010.
An editorial in Dawn analysed the fallout of Pakistan's involvement: "After months of apparent reluctance to help facilitate Afghan reconciliation, Islamabad's handing over of a handful of Afghan prisoners is a promising sign that Pakistan's thinking on the issue might be shifting... it has the potential to become a turning point in Pak-Afghan relations, creating the opportunity for future initiatives that could pay off even if these particular prisoners aren't able to do much... Also promising is how this move could boost Pakistan-US relations, even as America's role in this exchange... was wisely played down. The focus on the bilateral aspects of this particular agreement is important, a confidence-building measure between the two countries that will have to manage affairs once Western troops leave... But one thing we now know for sure: impeding peace in Afghanistan by trying to hedge our bets through proxies has been a losing strategy."
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