05 December, 2006

Jirga news

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri will be visiting Afghanistan between 7th and 9th December preparing the ground for the forthcoming Afghan-Pak jirga. His opening line is that the Afghan government should be seeking to involve the Taliban in some sort of national coalition government. According to the Pak Tribune, Kasuri's ideas have not been well received by the Afghanistan parliament in Kabul, which has more or less told Kasuri his to mind his own business.

From India, ZeeNews reports that Kasuri will propose the Waziri accord as a template for Afghanistan. Tasnim Aslam, as spokeswoman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry told a press conference that,

The Foreign Minister was not going to Kabul to dispel any suspicions of Pakistan's backing for Taliban...

"He's not going there to dispel those suspicions," she said to a question whether Kasuri during his visit would dispel the impression that joint Jirgas were aimed at legitimising Taliban.

Besides discussing steps to bring peace in bordering areas between of the two countries, where Taliban and al-Qaeda militants operated, Kasuri will "discuss Pakistan's strategy we are following in the tribal areas," she said.

"Something on similar lines can be developed in Afghanistan and implemented that will not only have political dimension and national reconciliation but also economic component for reconstruction," she said.

Pakistan pulled out its troops from various areas in Waziristan tribal belt a few months ago after reaching a controversial "peace deal" under which tribal elders gave verbal assurances to prevent infiltration of Taliban into Afghanistan.
Actually, it might be more accurate that say that the withdrawal from the tribal areas was a combination of the influence of a significant pro-Taliban element in the Pakistani military and the army's heavy casualties. The verbal assurances seem to have had, at best, only a limited effect. In an earlier post this week, I reported that incorporation of the Taliban into government was problematical for many tribal elders, who are an important locus of authority in Afghanistan society.

In a more positive, though perhaps unrealistic, vein, Dawn outlines some of Kasuri's suggestions for ensuring the integrity of Afghanistan's borders.
These include fencing of the international borders between the two countries; selectively mining and fencing the borders; introducing restrictions and checks on movement such as requirement of documentation on the points where the movement is allowed and real-time intelligence-sharing for which mechanisms like the tripartite commission are in place.
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