JUI-F’s Fazl says held ‘comprehensive and inclusive’ talks with Taliban supreme leader

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JUI-F’s Fazl says held ‘comprehensive and inclusive’ talks with Taliban supreme leader

KABUL: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Friday confirmed he met Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada and held “comprehensive and inclusive talks” on all issues.

The JUI-F chief has become the second prominent figure to meet the Taliban chief following the Qatari prime minister’s meeting with him in Kandahar last year.

Fazl had travelled to Kabul on Sunday along with an 11-member delegation on the Afghan interim government’s invitation after the JUI-F chief conveyed his desire to visit Afghanistan to discuss issues that had been souring ties between the two countries.

During his visit, Fazl, who undertook the trip in the middle of a hectic election campaign, met key Taliban leaders, including the Afghan prime minister. It was his first trip to Afghanistan since the Taliban’s assumption of control following the US withdrawal in 2021.

In an interview with Afghan National Radio and Television today, which will be aired on Saturday, Fazl confirmed meeting the Taliban chief. The interview was conducted in Kabul hours before the JUI-F chief wrapped up his six-day trip to Afghanistan, which the JUI-F has described as “highly successful”.

When asked about his earlier remarks that he would travel to Kandahar to meet the Akhunzada, Fazl said, “We were in contact with them for this purpose. They positively responded to us. We received their full support and I am thankful to him.”

To another question regarding his meeting with the Taliban chief, he said: “Of course. I am not making hollow claims.”

“We discussed all issues between the two countries,” Fazl said. “The purpose of my visit was that we do not confine ourselves to only one issue. We held comprehensive and inclusive talks. We covered all issues and exchanged suggestions for cooperation in all fields. They endorsed our stance in a very proper way,” the JUI-F chief added.

Separately, in a statement on social media platform X today, the JUI-F media cell said Fazl held meeting meetings with Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar, Defence Minister Mullah Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Refugee Minister Khalil ur Rehman Haqqani.

Sirajuddin Haqqani also made similar comments and said his government wants cordial relations with Pakistan. “Talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan on border affairs should move forward with consensus,” the JUI-F quoted Haqqani as saying.

It also quoted Mullah Yaqoob as saying that Fazl’s visit would help in reducing tensions between the two countries. “I hope that situation will change after the visit,” said Mullah Yaqoob, who has been very critical of Pakistan on several occasions.

Meanwhile, Afghan Refugee Minister Rehman, who also met the JUI delegation, expressed serious concerns over Pakistan’s policy towards Afghan refugees and called for an end to the “unfair” treatment, the JUI-F said.

The minister also urged Pakistan to give time to Afghans for the volunteer repatriation.

The meetings between the JUI-F chief and Afghan leaders come at a time when relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered due to a spike in terrorist attacks, mostly claimed by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban.

Islamabad has stated that the TTP and other groups use Afghan soil against Pakistan. While the Afghan Taliban have denied the charge, authorities remain unconvinced and have demanded action against the TTP, its sanctuaries, and the handover of its leaders.

The ties between the two neighbours took a further hit when Pakistan started deporting illegal Afghans. Nearly half a million undocumented Afghans have so far left Pakistan since November 1, last year.