Pakistan's top army commanders have decided to continue backing efforts for reconciliation in Afghanistan as Islamabad would be the "main beneficiary" of peace in the neighbouring country, according to a media report on Saturday.
The military top brass expressed satisfied with the outcome of steps taken by Pakistan to help reconciliation in Afghanistan and endorsed continuing support for the process during a meeting chaired yesterday by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
"Backing of the peace process in Afghanistan should go on. Pakistan would be the main beneficiary," an unnamed senior official who participated in the Corps Commanders Conference was quoted as saying by Dawn after the meeting.
The military's public affairs wing described the meeting at the General Headquarters as a routine monthly affair that reviewed professional matters and was "briefed about internal and external security situation of the country".
The corps commanders were informed during the meeting that the policy on Afghanistan enjoys "across board support" in Pakistan because of the realisation that peace inside Pakistan hinged on peace in Afghanistan.
Asked about Pakistan's next steps for assisting the reconciliation process, the senior official said, "For the moment meetings are taking place and that is encouraging".
He did not elaborate on discussions in these meetings or what the basis of his optimism was.
The army's decision to continue assisting the Afghans came ahead of a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Turkey trilateral summit in Ankara during December 11-12, and at a time when acting US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan David Pearce is visiting Islamabad for meetings with Pakistani officials.
The powerful army plays a key role in determining Pakistan's foreign policy, especially relations with countries like the US, India and Afghanistan.
The Dawn quoted analysts as saying that they believed the endorsement of the policy to encourage the peace process in Afghanistan would "imply sustained Pakistani support for it".
During a visit by members of the Afghan High Peace Council last month, Pakistan had released about a dozen mid-ranking Taliban detainees "primarily to test waters", the report said.
Later, during a visit by Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, Pakistan agreed to free more Taliban prisoners from its custody and facilitate contacts between the Peace Council and militants.
Pakistan has maintained a "thick shroud of secrecy around the identity of the released prisoners on the pretext of the personal security of the freed men", the report said. It is difficult to independently verify the success of Pakistan's strategy.
Major international players, including the US and Iran, have welcomed Pakistan's move to free Taliban prisoners.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have also agreed on involving Pakistani clerics who have a strong following among the Taliban.
An ulema (clerics) conference will be held in Kabul in the last week of January and the religious leaders are expected to urge the militants to renounce violence and join peace efforts.
Yesterday's meeting of the corps commanders also took stock of the internal law and order situation, including a spike in sectarian and political violence in Karachi and Quetta. A spate of sectarian attacks during the first 10 days of the Islamic month of Muharram left about 80 people dead, a majority of them Shias.