Terrorist infrastructure in Waziristan destroyed: Sartaj Aziz

WASHINGTON – Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan should not be blamed for the problems in Afghanistan and hoped direct talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials expected in two weeks would help strength efforts for peace in that country.

Speaking at an event organised by the Council on Foreign Relations here in Washington, he said that there was still a misperception that Pakistan was supporting some groups and there were still people who sympathize with Taliban. “This perception needs to be corrected because the way we have carried out process in the last two years, the starting point of that is very clear that unless peace comes to Afghanistan, Pakistan will not become peaceful,” he said.

He said that restoring peace in Afghanistan was as important for as it was for the Afghans. “That requires that there should be a political consensus between the Afghan government and Taliban and not the other way round,” he added. He recalled that when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Pakistan in November, there was a very strong feeling of achieving the right relationship and the two sides had good arrangements to start the reconciliation process.

But the surge in insurgency was a setback as while everyone expected the violence to pick up after the withdrawal of the ISAF forces, the insurgency became much stronger than was expected and delayed the talks, the adviser said. “That created a sort of perception as if we are responsible for this upsurge in insurgency,” he said, adding that it was actually the ground situation after the ISAF left as Taliban tried to make some gains.

He praised the performance of the Afghan forces in dealing with the insurgency which convinced everybody that Taliban cannot overrun Afghanistan and take it back. But, at the same time, he said the ability of these people to continue insurgency for many years remains undiminished. Without some kind of reconciliation, insurgency could not be stopped and durable peace cannot be attained, Sartaj underlined.

He said that the first meeting held in July between the Afghan officials and the Taliban representatives hosted by Pakistan was a good beginning and the two sides had cordial meeting and agreed to meet again in a few weeks, but an announcement from Kabul about the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar derailed the process.

The Quadrilateral Group that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States has now drawn a roadmap after an intense discussions held in its four meetings and now there was hope that in coming 10 to 15 days, a meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban could take place, he said.

He said that it is not going to be an easy or smooth process but the progress can be made if the ground situation remains stable, in which the Taliban don’t capture more territories, and at the same time they see things on the table which were more substantive. “Then there is obviously a chance of rapprochement,” he added.

Since taking over the government in 2013, the government has achieved notable success in the span of two and a half years. He said as a result of action by paramilitary rangers in Karachi, 12,000 extremist and terrorist had been arrested who had escaped from the tribal areas and were trying to make Karachi the hub of their activities.

As a result of the Zarb-e-Azb military operations launched in June 2014, almost 95 percent of area in the biggest tribal agency of North Waziristan has been cleared. The terrorist network in that area has been totally destroyed. He said the terrorists’ attacks in 2015 were less than half of what happened in 2014.

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