ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan is working to encourage intra-Afghan talks that were outlined in a peace deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.
Pakistani officials on Monday (July 6) took part in an online conference hosted by Afghanistan on "Strengthening Consensus for Peace", the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The conference is the first of three aimed at briefing the global community on the expected peace talks.
The ministry emphasised the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan for the overall peace and stability in the region and beyond.
The signing of the US-Taliban peace agreement has created a historic opportunity that the Afghan leadership must seize to achieve an inclusive and comprehensive political settlement, it said.
Pakistan's participation in the conference marks its most recent engagement with Afghanistan as Afghan authorities and the Taliban prepare to engage in negotiations.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, along with newly appointed Special Representative for Afghanistan Affairs Muhammad Sadiq, on June 9 met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, in Kabul.
Sadiq on June 17 held discussions with Taliban leaders in Doha, including Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Arab News reported.
For its part, Afghanistan on July 6 announced its new special envoy for Pakistan.
"With great pleasure I would like to announce that President Ghani has appointed me as his Special Envoy for #Pakistan. I thank President Ghani for placing his trust in me," Mohammad Umer Daudzai, a senior Afghan diplomat, announced on Twitter.
Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Atif Mashal on June 25 also conferred with Bajwa and Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, respectively.
Mashal discussed developments in the Afghan peace process and Pak-Afghan relations with both officials, he said on Twitter.
"Today I met with Pakistan COAS Gen. Qamar Bajwa and discussed follow up of matters arising from his recent Kabul visit, Afghan peace process, upcoming APAPPS meeting, strengthening bilateral relations and the current situation in the region," Mashal said on Twitter, referring to the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a co-operation framework set up last year.
Breaking the ice
Pakistan is playing a responsible role in the Afghan peace process, said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).
"Meanwhile, officials in the US also know that ensuring peace in Afghanistan is not only the sole responsibility of Pakistan, as there are several stakeholders and primary responsibility confers upon Afghanistan," he said.
Afghanistan was earlier reluctant to move ahead because of reservations over the US-Taliban peace deal, he said, adding that talks are the ultimate solution in almost all disputes.
Recent developments in Afghanistan's relationship with Pakistan could be fruitful, said observers from Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan's approach towards Pakistan has changed... but again there are still some worries," said Nasim Shafaq, a reporter with Radio Azadi, the Afghan branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Both the Afghan government and the Afghan people "are of the view that now Pakistan will play a crucial role on the peace process as made obvious from the recent developments and follow-up visits from both sides", he said.
"The people of Afghanistan still believe that Pakistan has the ability to keep the Afghan Taliban from fighting and bring them into the table," he said.
Before the recent presidential election, Ghani had pledged to work for sustainable peace and he is conscious of his promise, said Shafaq.