By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - A number of senior Afghan politicians on Friday left for Pakistan for a key meeting in their country's peace process, local media reported.
The Afghan Tolo News channel reported that as part of intra-Afghan talks for peace, several politicians, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor, second Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqeq and presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram left for Pakistan to attend a meeting.
Some members of the Taliban are also reportedly attending the meeting, being organized by the Lahore Center for Peace Research (LCPR) and the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI).
An overwhelming majority of the attending politicians are in the opposition. They are pushing for an interim government, instead holding presidential elections scheduled in September.
This development comes just a week ahead of President Ghani’s official visit to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, former President Hamid Karzai's office in a statement said that Karzai will not attend the meeting in Pakistan due to limited time for preparations.
This comes as the U.S. and the Taliban are set to hold a seventh round of talks for peace later this month in Doha, Qatar.
The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Wednesday stressed that the aim behind the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban is a comprehensive peace deal, not a withdrawal agreement.
In a series of tweets ahead of the seventh round of talks with the Taliban, Khalilzad said a comprehensive peace agreement is made up of four inter-connected parts: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan negotiations that leads to a political settlement; and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.
"As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, important to remember we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement," he tweeted.
Separately, the Taliban’s Qatar office spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, has claimed that the U.S. has agreed to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan and to not interfere in Afghan affairs in future.