Pakistan providing safe haven to Afghan Taliban leaders, reveals Sartaj Aziz

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Sartaj Aziz
Sartaj Aziz

Finally, the cat is out of the bag. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s top adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz admitted to housing Afghan Taliban’s leadership in Pakistan.

This admission, which came during a panel discussion in Washington on 1 March, by Aziz comes after several official denials by Pakistan that it offers shelter to Afghan Taliban leadership, whose uprising against Afghan and NATO forces has claimed thousands of lives.

The Pakistani Army and the Taliban leadership have not made any comments so far.

Replying to a query on Pakistan’s role in the peace talks between Afghanistan and Taliban, he said  “We can’t negotiate on behalf of the Afghan government because we can’t offer them what the Afghan government can.”

Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China held their fourth round of talks aimed at reviving direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban late last month.

Aziz said Pakistan’s role was as a “facilitator” and it was up to Kabul to make negotiations fruitful. “Pakistan is not the actual negotiator. Our sincerity will be recognised, and I hope that the Afghan government will play a pro-active role for success of these talks.” Aziz said Islamabad had used the threat of expulsion to force the Taliban into the first round of talks.

Most of the Afghan Taliban leaders are residing in Quetta with others in Peshawar and Karachi. Aziz said, “We have some influence on them and they get some medical facilities, their families are here (in Pakistan).”

Aziz’s remarks confirm Pakistan’s denial of it providing a safe haven to the Afghan Taliban. This piece of news has always been an open secret to those in the region.

Meanwhile, the United States needs to stay in Afghanistan as Pakistan has nuclear weapons, which have to be protected at all costs, said Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Replying to a query on Afghanistan during the Republican presidential debate on 3 March,  Trump said, “I think the US forces have to stay in Afghanistan for a while due to the fact  that you are next to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons and we have to protect that. Nuclear weapons change the game.”