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Afghan scholars to visit Pak for Ulema meet

Islamabad, Dec.7: Prominent religious scholars from Afghanistan are to soon visit Pakistan to discuss the agenda of an Ulema Conference to be held in Kabul in January.

The conference to be attended by ulema from Pakistan, Afghanistan and possibly from neighbouring India, was agreed upon during Afghan peace envoy Salahuddin Rabbani’s visit to Islamabad last month. The conference aims to win religious backing for the peace process in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Afghani counterpart, Zalmai Rassoul, agreed, during their official talks in Islamabad on Friday, to hold the conference in January.

Clerics from both countries will hold consultations to discuss the agenda for the January meet, the first ever bilateral gathering of religious scholars from Afghanistan and Pakistan, local English language newspaper, the Express Tribune said quoting Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson Janan Mosazai.

“The Ulema will also discuss names of those scholars who have the capability to play an effective role in pushing the peace process forward,” he said.

Mosazai said Afghanistan wants Pakistan to “facilitate direct contact” between the Taliban and Afghan government, saying Islamabad can “encourage the Taliban” leaders to sincerely join the peace process.

“We also want Pakistan’s help in talks with the Taliban in a third country. Pakistan can help in arranging travel facilities for those Taliban who want to talk to the Afghan government and ensure that they face no threats,” he added.

Mosazai welcomed what he called “Pakistan’s first practical step” to release some mid-ranking Taliban prisoners, and hoped that this would pave the way for more steps to push the peace process forward.

Pakistan freed nine Taliban prisoners, including senior commander Anwarul Haq Mujahid, last month, at Rabbani’s request. Four other Taliban prisoners had been freed ahead of Rabbani’s visit.

In addition, a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the day-long visit of the Afghan foreign minister last Friday stated that Pakistan has agreed to release more Taliban detainees.