ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

A delegation of Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s deputy head, arrived on a two-day visit to Islamabad on Wednesday.

Soon after arrival, the delegation visited Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry where Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed them.

According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Taliban leaders will meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, the military leadership and other senior officials.

“The visit of Taliban Political Commission delegation is part of Pakistan’s policy to reach out to key Afghan parties in the Afghan peace process with a view to facilitating the Intra-Afghan Negotiations, that commenced in Doha on 12 September 2020,” said the statement.

Pakistan will continue to support an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement for durable peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.

This is the second delegation-level visit by Taliban to Pakistan in the last four months.

In August, a seven-member Taliban delegation led by Baradar had held talks with Qureshi. Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, Pakistan’s spymaster, was also present in the meeting.

Afghan government reaction

Meanwhile, the Afghan Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it is aware of the Taliban delegation visiting Islamabad, adding that Kabul respects Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban delegation’s visit to Islamabad is following consultation with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and as a result of the trip to Afghanistan by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan,” according to a statement.

Separately, top Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah has said that the issue of venue for talks with the Taliban would not to be allowed to undermine the process. Abdullah told a press conference in Kabul that it would be better to hold the peace talks in Afghanistan. “But, the venue of the talks will depend on the agreement of both sides and the venue of the talks should not be a hindrance to this process.”

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Sunday endorsed the idea of completing the remaining parts of the ongoing intra-Afghan negotiations inside Afghanistan.

Addressing a Cabinet meeting, Ghani said the negotiations should continue inside Afghanistan with public having knowledge of the subjects discussed there.

“The Taliban claim to be in Afghanistan, so do they not negotiate inside Afghanistan?” President Ghani was quoted in a series of tweets by Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the presidency.

Last week, Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib suggested the intra-Afghan negotiations could be completed inside Afghanistan.

*Shadi Khan Saif contributed to this story from Kabul

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