ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is anxiously looking forward to receive Afghan President Ashraf Ghani next week with the hope that he will propose a new roadmap for resumption of quadrilateral talks between his government and the Afghan Taliban. The peace process in Afghanistan remains suspended since July this year when both the parties failed to attend the second round of talks in Murree. Pakistan hosted the first round of talks which attended by representatives of Afghan government and Taliban besides representatives of the US and China. Although President Ghani is primarily visiting Pakistan to inaugurate the regional conference on Afghanistan being hosted by Pakistan on December 9, Pakistan government is pinning high hopes about a clear roadmap he might propose for resumption of reconciliation process.

On the other hand, senior diplomats from Western countries are also attaching much importance to the visit of Afghan President. They believe that Afghan President holds the key to resumption of reconciliation process. However, on its part Pakistan says it sincerely desires to help facilitate the process but believes that it depends on the Afghans themselves to take initiative. “ Pakistan will act only on the request of Afghan government. It hosted the first round of talks on the request of the Afghan government”, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah told The Nation. He noted that Pakistan has been supporting Afghan-owned Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan in the interest of lasting peace and stability in the region.

President Ashraf Ghani took a bold step to engage Taliban and improving relations with Pakistan, but detractors of peace failed his initiative to bear any fruit. Instead the violence in August and Kunduz attack in October provided him an opportunity to blame Pakistan which caused disconnect and ttrust deficit between the two countries. Leading Pakistani analysts believed President Ghani had to do it to protect his credibility and distanced himself from further peace talks. The revelation of Mullah Omar’s death  by Afghan establishment only few days prior to the second round of Murree talks was a deliberate attempt to further sabotage the process. As a result of the recent visit of the Army chief to the US and the latest meeting of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with Afghan President in Paris, President Ghani has agreed to visit Pakistan on December 9. This, diplomatic sources believed could set the stage for the revival of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government depending on will of the Afghan President.

The more central question, they opined is whether the positions of the Taliban and the Afghan government are reconcilable. They were of the view that as of now, there is a wide gap in their goals and objectives. Moreover, they noted that within the Taliban there are two factions and the splinter group refuses to accept the leadership of Mullah Mansoor so any decisions taken by him, in all likelihood, will be opposed. They also noted that Afghan government itself is a victim of paralysis due to internal power struggles between President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. They believed that in the given situation, a breakthrough will take considerable time and patience.