Washington, March 1: Pakistan's adviser for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has admitted that Islamabad has considerable influence over the Taliban because its leaders live in the country.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington on Tuesday, the Pakistan top official said, “We have some influence on them because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities, their families are here.
Afghan Taliban’s leadership enjoys a safe haven inside Pakistan, which Islamabad uses as a “lever” to pressure the group into talks with Kabul. But we can't negotiate on behalf of the Afghan government because we cannot offer them what the Afghan government can."
The admission by Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz comes after years of official denials by Islamabad that it offers shelter or exerts any influence over the Taliban, whose 14-year-insurgency against Afghan and NATO forces has claimed thousands of civilian and military lives.
Earlier in October last year during an interview with a Pakistan's Duniya TV, Former Pakistan Army Chief and President Parvez Musharraf said that 'religious militancy' was started by Pakistan and it was only Pakistan which has brought militants from all over the world to fight against Soviet forces.
Calling Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Haqqani as heroes, Musharraf said Pakistan gave heroic welcome to these militants when they returned to Pakistan after the end of Soviet war. However, Musharraf, at the end of the interview said that the terrorists, who were once supported by Pakistan, have become a threat to the country and needed to be dealt strongly.
Now the Aziz remarks have confirm what has become an open secret in diplomatic circles, particularly since Pakistan began brokering direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban last summer.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China held their fourth round of talks aimed at reviving direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban late last month. The four-country group invited Taliban representatives to return to negotiations by the first week of March, though a spokesman for the militants later said they had not yet received an invitation.
Aziz said Islamabad had used the threat of expulsion to force the Taliban into the first round of talks. “We already -- before the 7th July meeting last year -- we had to use some of these levers and restricted their movements, restricted their access to hospital and other facilities, and threatened them that if you do not come forward and talk, then obvi