Talks with Taliban underway with full US backing: Sedwill
By Saeed Minhas
ISLAMABAD: UK’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Mark Sedwill said that Taliban leadership is engaged in talks with various stakeholders with the full backing of US with the sole aim of finding a solution to Afghan problem from within, without any involvement of foreign players.
Therefore, he said that in the post-Osama bin Laden world a stable and independent Afghanistan is the best thing Pakistan should hope not only for its own prosperity but also for the whole South Asian region and the world because it’s better to live with the rest of the world than to seek alignment of Afghanistan on any side.
Briefing select media persons here at the British High Commission after his meetings with Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Kayani, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Secretary General for President Salman Farooqui, Sedwill said that he has conveyed this special message to the concerned Pakistani quarters from the British government with utmost clarity and with the hope that they fully grasp it. A career diplomat, Mark Sedwill has served both in Pakistan (deputy high commissioner 2003-5) and Afghanistan (ambassador 2009) and has succeeded Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who resigned in June 2010 after developing differences with NATO and US over the war strategy in Afghanistan, as the new UK’s Af-Pak ambassador.
The fresh appointee, Sedwill, on his first ever visit to Pakistan after getting the position, said that since various channels of communications are open with Taliban and no single entity is in full knowledge of these talks, therefore, all options, like giving amnesty to black-listed Taliban or letting them open office in Turkey, etc, are on the table provided Taliban leadership respond to these good gesture in kind and in time.
He was very categorical in elaborating a point that Afghan solution has to come from within Afghanistan under the umbrella of UN and no country (including Pakistan) should hope that it could influence any particular outcome in this regard. As India has endorsed the proposed reconciliation plan with Taliban, Pakistan should also join forces with the international forces to ensure that stability is brought to this war-torn country so that not only Pakistan rather the entire region and the world can benefit from this, he said. “Paramount issue is the stability of Afghanistan not its alignment,” he emphasised while responding to a query regarding the prospect of Pakistani establishment getting its nose in the affairs and ultimate settlement of Afghanistan once the NATO and allied forces pull out.
Eventual happenings in Afghanistan will not only have an impact on UK and US but more so on Pakistan, he said asserting that Pakistan is the only country which has lost more than 30,000 civilians and over 5000 military men in the fight against terror, a figure ten times higher than any other country in the world. Therefore, he said, “I have tried to convey to the top leadership of the country to help international community ensure stability in Afghanistan so that not only UK becomes secure but even Pakistan and the region can live in peace and prosperity.”
Sedwill said that he was here with the clear message from his government that the world wants Pakistan to be a partner in war against terror (not an adversary) but now it’s up to the leadership of Pakistan to not only continue its cooperation towards this end but also help resolve Afghan issue for the betterment of all involved. He said that he has updated the Pakistani leadership about the latest talks between Secretary of State Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague as well as the meeting between President Obama and British premier. Sedwill said that he has also tried to reiterate that UK-Pak relations have a solid foundation and it will continue to move forward in the fields of development, energy sector and education besides many others.
He said that as for Indo-Pak situation is concerned, British position has been very clear that it is a bilateral issue between the two nations and they have to work out a way through dialogues without hoping for any foreign hand to sort it out for them. He said that entire world is looking at the ongoing dialogue between the two countries as a positive step forward in this direction.
Earlier, a statement of the British High Commission announced the arrival of Sedwill to Pakistan and the following statement from him, “Pakistan is the first country that I have visited since being appointed the UK’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I have come to follow up the prime minister’s recent exchanges with Prime Minister Gilani: to identify ways to take forward our strategic partnership to support Pakistan’s long term future and its fight against terrorism and to discuss the opportunities for working together to secure our shared interests of peace and stability in Afghanistan. As Prime Minister Cameron stated yesterday ‘in this vital effort [against international terrorism], we must continue to work with Pakistan. People are asking questions about our relationship, so we need to be clear: Pakistan has suffered more from terrorism than any other country in the world. Their enemy is our enemy. So far from walking away, we’ve got to work even more closely with them.”