Afghan Shia leader in Pakistan after killings of Hazara miners

High on the agenda is the continuing peace process between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban.

A prominent Afghan Shia Muslim leader has held talks with Pakistan’s foreign minister, as that country continues to reel from the brutal killing of 10 Shia coal miners in a targeted attack in the southwest earlier this month.

Karim Khalili, leader of the Afghan Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami political party, met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday, the Pakistani foreign office said.

High on the agenda was the continuing peace process between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, with talks aimed at ending the 20-year war in Pakistan’s northwestern neighbour continuing in Qatar.

“During the meeting, views were exchanged on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations and progress in the Afghan peace process,” read a Pakistani statement on the meeting.

“Foreign Minister [Qureshi] reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.”

Pakistan has facilitated the peace process, helping to bring the Afghan Taliban to the table first with the United States, resulting in an historic agreement between those two warring parties in February last year.

Khalili, a former vice president of Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai, is also a member of the ethnic Hazara community which was targeted in the coal mine attack in the Pakistani town of Mach on January 3.

The Hazara community on both sides of the border has suffered decades of persecution and attacks by violent sectarian groups who consider Shia Muslims to be heretics.

In Pakistan, more than 500 Hazaras have been killed in such attacks since 2014, according to the National Commission for Human Rights.
Afghan peace process

Khalili’s visit is the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the two governments on the Afghan peace process.

In November, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to hold talks with President Ashraf Ghani.

During that visit, Khan promised Pakistan would do “everything, whatever is possible” to aid the peace process.

Khalili was the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), a body formed by former Afghan President Karzai to lead negotiations with the Afghan Taliban that was officially dissolved in 2019.

The role of the HPC has now largely been taken by the High Council for National Reconciliation, led by former Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi repeated a Pakistani allegation of “spoilers” attempting to derail the Afghan peace process – a thinly veiled dig at regional rival India, who Islamabad accuses of sponsoring armed groups on Pakistani soil.

“The foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s call on all sides to take measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire,” read the Pakistani statement.

“He also cautioned against the role of ‘spoilers’ within and outside Afghanistan, who did not wish to see return of peace in Afghanistan and the region.”

Violence has continued to rage in Afghanistan in recent weeks, despite the continuing peace talks. On Sunday, at least three people were killed in a roadside bombing in Kabul.