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Wants early intra-Afghan talks for peace in the region: Foreign Minister

– 20-member council finalised for intra-Afghan talks
ISLAMABAD, August 25: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has warned the Afghan Taliban delegation of possible threats related to sabotaging the Afghan peace process and “spoilers” and said that Pakistan should ensure peace and stability in the region. He hoped that the intra-Afghan talks would be held soon.
A delegation of Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani, called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi here on Tuesday to discuss Afghan peace process.
During the meeting, the delegation apprised the foreign minister of the situation regarding implementation of the agreement reached between the Taliban and the United States.
Views were also exchanged about the early start of intra-Afghan dialogue.
Meanwhile Arab News has reported that the head of the Afghan Taliban has finalised a 20-member negotiating team for upcoming talks between the Kabul government and the insurgent group, thirteen of whom are from the group’s existing leadership council, Taliban chief negotiator Sher Abbas Stanekzai said on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban have agreed that Doha will be the venue for the peace talks, known as the intra-Afghan dialogue, which will be the first high-level meeting between the two sides after nearly two decades of fighting.
“All decision-making powers are with the negotiations team, which has 65 percent representation from the ‘Rehbari Shoura’ [Taliban leadership council],” Stanekzai told Arab News via audio message from Doha, Qatar, where the insurgent group has had a political office since 2013. “They will take the process forward… and are now involved in internal consultation to chalk out a strategy.”
Stanekzai said Sheikh Hibatullah Akhunzada, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, would have the authority to devise the council’s strategy and sign agreements with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul.
The 20-member negotiation council includes several of Akhunzada’s close aides such as Sheikh Abdul Hakeem, Maulvi Abdul Kabeer, Maulvi Noor Mohammad Saqib, Mullah Shireen Noorzai, Sheikh Qasim Turkmen, and Abdul Manan Omari, who is the brother of Taliban founder Mullah Omar. The crucial intra-Afghan talks are part of a historic peace deal signed between the Taliban and Washington in Doha earlier this year, which outlined a roadmap for withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan and peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban to end the 19-year war. No date has been announced for the talks yet, but they were set to begin following the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government, a condition of the Doha deal. There was deadlock earlier over the release of 400 ‘hardcore’ Taliban prisoners, but Ghani announced on August 9 that he would free them “soon.”
“Kabul had agreed to release prisoners but later deviated from its commitment,” Stanekzai said. “We will not start intra-Afghan dialogue even if our one prisoner stays in jail. Every prisoner is a hero.” -TLTP

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