Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz has for the first time admitted that Islamabad holds sway over Taliban and hosts leaders of the Afghan militant group.
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, and amid a fresh push for direct peace talks.
Speaking at an event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, Aziz said the leadership of the Taliban group is based in Pakistan along with their families who are using certain facilities, including health centers in the country.
“So we can use those levers to pressurise them to say: ‘Come to the table’,” he added, according to a transcript on the think tank’s website.
“We can use those levers to pressurize them to say, ‘Come to the table’. But we can’t negotiate on behalf of the Afghan government because we cannot offer them what the Afghan government can offer them,” he added.
“[We told the Taliban leaders that] we have hosted [them] enough for 35 years, and we can’t do it anymore because the whole world is blaming us just by [their] presence here,” Aziz said.
Pakistan has been trying to mediate peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government amid growing fears that a resurgent Taliban is increasing its attacks on civilians and security forces across Afghanistan. A weekend announcement by representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US said Kabul and the Taliban are expected to hold direct talks by the end of the month.