ISLAMABAD: Afghan religious scholars and members of the peace council on Monday concluded their five-day visit to Islamabad, seeking mediation of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq between the Taliban and the Afghan government, Sami’s office said. The seven-member Afghan delegation met Samiul Haq, who is considered as the teacher of Afghan Taliban, in Islamabad on Sunday and urged him to play his key role for peace and reconciliation.A statement from the Madrassah Haqqania said that the Afghan scholars assured Samiul Haq that they would accept his decision. “As the Taliban consider you as a teacher, we want your mediation between the Taliban and Afghan government,” the statement quoted members of the delegation as telling the JUI-S leader.Samiul Haq proposed a meeting of the scholars and the Taliban at a secret location without involvement of the Afghan government, Pakistan and the US. “I think the Afghan rulers, former mujahideen leaders and the Taliban must agree on one point that is the withdrawal of the US and NATO forces and to liberate Afghanistan,” Samiul Haq told the Afghan scholars, according to the statement.The Afghan scholars also met Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, who backed intra-Afghan dialogue to end the conflict. “The JI does not support any particular group but we stand by the people of Afghanistan. We ask all Afghan groups to come to the negotiation table for regional peace,” Siraj told the Afghan delegates, according to a statement.“Afghan nation can force foreign occupation forces to leave Afghanistan if it demonstrates unity,” he was quoted as saying. A seven-member Afghan delegation headed by Attaur Rehman Saleem had arrived in Islamabad on Thursday. Earlier, Pakistani and Afghan religious scholars met in Islamabad and discussed the clerics’ role in ending violence in war-shattered Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join the peace process.The scholars held consultations for holding a conference of the scholars in Islamabad and Kabul to announce a joint stance on the Afghan war.Sources told Daily Times that Afghan scholars had a four-hour meeting at the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) with Maulana Taqi Usmani, Fazalur Rehman Khalil, Maulana Iderees, Hanif Jalandari and CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz.Afghan side was upbeat at their first ever face-to-face meeting with Pakistani scholars despite Taliban strong opposition to such gatherings, as they view the initiative as an American plan to “legalise their invasion of Afghanistan.”Afghan officials believe they can convince Pakistani religious leaders to adopt a stance against suicide bombings like they had issued a “decree” in January this year.They also cite a declaration against the Afghan war adopted by an international conference in Saudi Arabia in July this year. Pakistani clerics had declined Saudi invitation as they were upset at the kingdom’s “harsh” statements against the Taliban. Saudi Arabia in its invitation to scholars had termed all Afghan groups terrorist, evoking strong condemnation by the Taliban and an alliance of Afghan scholars.Pakistani scholars had joined Afghan and Indonesia scholars at a trilateral conference in Indonesia in May this year that declared suicide bombings against Islam and also called for direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Afghan officials had agreed this month on a meeting of scholars and officials in Islamabad to discuss agenda for a conference of scholars to issue a joint declaration against violence in Afghanistan.Afghanistan had long been urging Islamabad to seek help from Pakistani scholars; however, the latter had been reluctant to sit with Afghan scholars in view of the presence of the foreign troops.Published in Daily Times, October 2nd, 2018.