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Afghan officials, insurgent group respond positively to Gilani's join peace process appeal

Islamabad, Sat, 25 Feb 2012 ANI

Islamabad, Feb 25 (ANI): Afghan officials and an insurgent group have reacted positively to an appeal by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for all stakeholders to enter into an intra-Afghan dialogue to stabilise their country.


The Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), the group led by former warlord Gulbudin Hekmatyar, welcomed the initiative and even offered to lend its support to what it said was a "vindication of its principled stand".


"We've been saying all along that all stakeholders in the Afghan imbroglio should sit together, discuss the issue threadbare, and come up with a viable solution without foreign interference," The Express Tribune quoted the group's political chief Dr Ghairat Baheer, as saying.


On being asked if the Hizb-e-Islami would declare a ceasefire following the Pakistan leader's appeal, Baheer said: "Once the Afghans agree on a full package, a ceasefire will automatically come into force."


The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid that the group's leadership would discuss the matter and issue a formal reaction.


Afghan Ambassador Omar Daudzai said the Pakistani leader's move was 'positive,' but he challenged him to take 'practical steps'.


"Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Hamid Karzai had agreed in their recent telephone conversation to launch such appeals," Daudzai said.


"We hope that all sides in Afghanistan will come up with a positive response to the Pakistani prime minister's appeal," he added.


Meanwhile, the Afghan High Peace Council, a body formed by President Karzai to talk to the Taliban, has also welcomed the move.


Echoing Daudzai's remarks, a senior member of the peace council said: "This is a positive step, but Pakistan should take practical steps to help resolve the Afghan crisis."


Gilani made the the appeal, the first of its kind, after meeting ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha over the Afghan issue.


"I would like to appeal to the Taliban leadership as well as to all other Afghan groups, including Hizb-i-Islami, to participate in an intra-Afghan process for national reconciliation and peace," Gilani said in the appeal made in response to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's request to Islamabad to support the peace initiative.


"It is our sincere hope that the Taliban leadership, Hizb-i-Islami and all other Afghan political leaders will respond positively to my appeal and agree to enter into direct negotiations in the framework of an intra-Afghan process for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan," he added. ANI)


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