Inching towards understanding
After the hard talk during Karzai’s Islamabad visit last week, PM Gilani’s statement comes as nothing short of a game changer in the context of the Afghan reconciliation. In the wake of the trilateral summit Khar had called the request by Karzai to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table as ‘preposterous’. Behind-the-scenes moves, meanwhile, have led to the melting of the snow. Gilani has agreed to actively help the Karzai government by issuing a public call to all Afghan militant groups, including the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami, to enter into direct negotiations in the framework of an intra-Afghan reconciliation process. Keeping in view Gilani’s meeting with the CJCS and DG ISI and reportedly a telephonic conversation with the COAS earlier in the day, his stance enjoys the backing of the military establishment.
The incident of burning of the Holy Quran at Bagram base has given rise to an unprecedented furore against the US and the Nato forces, thus creating doubts abut the future of a negotiated settlement with the militants. This has created new problems for the US as well as the Karzai government. Gilani’s statement should provide some comfort to both as it puts life into the reconciliation process. The stand has been welcomed by the Hezb-e-Islami.
The invitation for talks comes a day after the meeting between Clinton and Khar in London which constitutes the first step towards the thawing of relations frozen since November when US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Clinton hit the nail by maintaining that while ups and downs are normal in relations between friendly countries, the ties between the US and Pakistan are simply too important to turn our backs on. There is an urgent need to remove some of the main irritants that keep the pot boiling. Hopefully the expected apology from the US over Salala killings would come within the next few weeks. One also hopes that the dispute over the drone attacks would be resolved keeping in view the dire need for cooperation between the two countries against terrorism.