ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban have not been invited to an upcoming peace conference in Uzbekistan that will mainly focus on the prospects for reconciliation in Afghanistan, two Taliban officials said earlier in the week. The conference titled ”Peace Process and Cooperation in the field of Security and Regional Cohesion’ is scheduled to be held in Tashkent on March 26-27. Representatives from all regional countries, including Pakistan, as well as the United States will attend the conference. As there is no let up in Afghan war and Daesh is posing a serious threat to Afghanistan’s neighbours, Uzbekistan has also stepped up efforts to help in the reconciliation process. All regional countries are now on same page to press for a political solution as the military option is increasingly being looked at as having failed in defeating the Taliban, besides the emergence of Daesh has further aggravated the situation in Afghanistan and the region. A Taliban spokesman and a political representative said they have not received any invitation for the Tashkent moot. “We have not been invited,” the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Daily Times in response to a query posted on his WhatsApp. Taliban’s relations with Uzbekistan have been tense because of its support to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, according to Taliban leader, who served during the Taliban rule in 1996-2001. A Taliban political representative also said Uzbekistan has not extended any invitation to the political office, adding that any process without the Taliban will be an exercise in futility. “The Islamic Emirate is a major party to the conflict. How can the Afghan problem be solved without our participation?” he asked, while speaking to Daily Times on Wednesday. He said meetings for peace in Afghanistan will not produce any result if the Taliban are not invited. Pakistan is likely to be represented by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif. Last week, Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal welcomed Uzbekistan’s role for peace in Afghanistan. “As a neighbour, Pakistan appreciates Uzbekistan’s initiative to convene a Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. We support Uzbekistan in its endeavour to contribute towards bringing lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Faisal said earlier this month at his weekly briefing. “In our view, Afghanistan’s neighbours should play an active role in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We believe that a regional solution would be the most suitable to settle the conflict in Afghanistan,” he further stated. Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov, leading a four-member delegation, visited Islamabad on February 12, and in a meeting with Foreign Minister Asif conveyed a letter from the Uzbek President, addressed to President Mamnoon Hussain, inviting him for the conference. The Tashkent conference will be held nearly a month after the second meeting of the Kabul Process in Kabul on Feb 28 that had pressed the Taliban to join the intra-Afghan dialogue. Uzbekistan and Central Asian states were part of the Kabul Process. The Taliban did not issue any official reaction to the Kabul Process call, but in commentaries on their websites rejected the Kabul Process as a move to ‘force them to surrender’ and insisted they are ready for direct talks to the US. The Taliban also ignored President Ghani’s dialogue offer in his address to the Kabul Process and a Taliban political negotiator had earlier said Taliban are fighting against foreign invasion and Mr Ghani had not offered a single word about the real problem. Published in Daily Times, March 16th 2018.