Afghanistan peace talks in jeopardy if Taliban refuse to attend

 

Islamabad

Key Afghan peace talks announced by David Cameron, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier this month were in danger of collapse last night after leading Pakistani clerics told The Independent that they were not willing to take part unless the Taliban was also present.

The leading Pakistani mullahs, or Ulema, are also unhappy with what they see as a crude attempt by the three countries to use the talks as a way of endorsing the Karzai government. Afghanistan has dispatched an emergency delegation to Islamabad in an attempt to persuade the clerics to attend the talks, which were announced with great fanfare by the three leaders at Chequers.

The conference is supposed to take place next month in Kabul and was one of the few concrete steps to come out of the Chequers summit.

Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, a leading organisation of Pakistani clerics who was seen as a possible leader of the Pakistani side of the conference, said: “How come people can talk to the Taliban all over the world but not in Kabul? We support peace talks. But if we are to discuss peace, then how can you leave out one of the parties to the war?”

The Taliban have indicated their interest in peace negotiations and their representatives have held discussions in Qatar, Germany, France and elsewhere. But it is highly unlikely that they could openly attend a conference in Afghanistan any time soon, and they have come out strongly against the idea of this particular conference.

Mr Ashrafi said today that, after 16 hours of talks with the Afghan side in Islamabad, “nothing firm” was agreed. Pakistan’s three big religious political parties were the obvious choices to go to Kabul with the Ulema Council but didn’t even turn up for the talks.

The conference of the leading mullahs was a key stage in the “Peace Process Roadmap to 2015”, a plan presented in November by the Karzai regime’s High Peace Council. The event had already been postponed from January. That month, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, issued a statement saying that any religious cleric attending would be “answerable to God”, an apparent threat.

It was reported that Kabul would seek a fatwa (religious decree) against suicide bombing at the meeting – an edict that would be, at least implicitly, critical of the Taliban. The leadership of the Taliban is presumed to be hiding in Pakistan.

At the Chequers summit, the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged to aim for a peace deal with the Taliban within six months.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific