Analysts see little hope on reconciliation front
KABUL (PAN): Political analysts believe President Hamid Karzai’s just-concluded visit to Pakistan could help improve bilateral economic cooperation, but they are not optimistic about an immediate breakthrough in the area of reconciliation
Karzai, heading a high-level delegation, originally planned to stay in Pakistan for a day on August 26. But the visit was extended by a day. On the first day, Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed ways to work together to combat "terrorism" and advance the peace process.
Before returning home on Tuesday, Karzai had detailed discussions on various issues of mutual interest with Sharif.
The two leaders pledged to work more closely together to reinforce trade, energy, and communication links -- including specific highway projects and a joint dam project on the Kunar River.
The president held one-on-one talks with the Pakistani leader and called for Islamabad’s role in arranging talks with the Taliban.
Karzai concluded his two-day trip by inviting Sharif to visit Kabul. He met Sharif for the first time since his election in May. Sharif reaffirmed “strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan”.
Pakistani national security adviser Sartaj Aziz in a television interview claimed the Pakistani side was able to convince Karzai that it did not control the Taliban.
Karzai complained Pakistan had failed to use its influence to convince the Taliban to join peace talks. He said Taliban backers wanted to keep Afghanistan “impoverished and underdeveloped forever”.
During his extended stay, Karzai also held a separate meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.
Zubair Shafiqi, who accompanied Karzai on the visit, said the meetings held in friendly environment and the Pakistani side appeared sincere in its pledges.
He said Sharif had called for the visit to be extended, a move that spurred hopes of a breakthrough.
He said the ongoing war against terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan had pushed Pakistan into crises, making the military establishment to think about peace.
Shafiqi claimed the Pakistani side had promised to release some of the detained Taliban over the next two weeks.
Pakistan has enough influence on the Taliban and could help convince them to arrive at peace talks with the Afghan government, he said.
However, Wahid Muzhda, another political analyst, said Pakistan had only renewed its old promises and pledges, with Karzai failing to get released some of the jailed Taliban leaders.
He said Nawaz Sharif appeared interested in economic cooperation rather than peace, something beyond his authority. “This annoyed Karzai and the Pakistanis extended the visit to discuss other issues of Afghanistan’s interest.”
Muzhda was not sure Pakistan would honour its promises concerning mega development projects because the country was in financial crisis.
Pakistan pledged to construct the second lane of Torkham-Jalalabad road, extend the Lahore-Peshawar motorway to Kabul and help build a hydropower dam on the Kunar River and address problems facing Afghan traders in the country.
Analysts in Pakistan suggested that the Afghan leader had pinned unrealistic hopes on Sharif.
Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar told a TV show Tuesday that Pakistan would help facilitate peace talks but that Karzai’s government “must also show its seriousness.”
She suggested that some of Karzai’s expectations of Pakistan were impractical, such as hoping that it would suddenly release Baradar as a goodwill gesture.
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