Pak-Afghan agree on JRP

Islamabad: The Joint Reconciliation Commission formed by Pakistan and Afghanistan is aimed at working out modalities for direct negotiations with the Taliban and will give Islamabad a formal role in the nascent peace process in the war-torn nation, media reports said.

The two-tier commission will be headed by the Pakistani and Afghan Foreign Ministers and comprise representatives from the Foreign Ministries, military and intelligence services of both countries.

The commission`s formation was announced yesterday by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul yesterday.

The formation of the commission is the "first serious initiative taken by the two nations to find a political solution to the war in Afghanistan", an unnamed Pakistani official told The Express Tribune newspaper.

The development "indicates Islamabad`s pivotal role in the future political dispensation of Afghanistan", the official said.

The commission is aimed at working out modalities for direct negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to accelerate the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, the report said.

The commission will reach out to the Afghan Taliban, "implying that Kabul has finally assigned a formal role to Islamabad in the reconciliation process ? even though only that of a facilitator", the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

Though Pakistan and Afghanistan had been discussing the possibility of setting up a joint body for reconciliation for the past few weeks following a turnaround in bilateral ties late last year, it was "the American embrace of the reconciliation in the annual review that really encouraged the two sides to embark on the initiative", the Dawn reported.

"For long Washington appeared unwilling to accept reconciliation and had instead been insisting on reintegration of foot soldiers of the Afghan insurgency.

"It was precisely because of a lack of American support that a Pakistani initiative last summer to push some insurgent factions to make peace with the Karzai government could not succeed," the report added.

The joint statement issued after the talks between Qureshi and Rassoul yesterday sought to play down the development, making only a brief reference to the formation of the joint commission.

"Both sides agreed on the creation and operationalisation of a two-tier joint body headed by Foreign Ministers and Deputy Foreign Minister/Foreign Secretary to support the peace and reconciliation process," the joint statement said.

Addressing a news conference with Rassoul, Qureshi said: ?Now that the US has agreed to a political process, they have recognised the importance of reconciliation. It is important that we have in place a mechanism which will promote political engagement."

Rassoul said the Afghan government had "established contacts with top Taliban leaders" to seek an end to the decade-old war.

"You can`t make peace without contacts, but obviously I can`t share the details," he said.