Former prime minister of Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on Sunday praised Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace process for his war-torn country.“Pakistan is a very important country and Islamabad could play a key role in bringing peace in Afghanistan and now they are doing it,” Hekmatyar told Anadolu Agency in the resort town of Bhurban near Islamabad. He arrived in Pakistan along with 57 other Afghan leaders to attend a peace conference on Saturday.“I praised Pakistan’s sincere efforts and I am sure they will continue its help to bring peace in our country,” the two-time prime minister said. The Americans are also praising Pakistan’s role in bringing Taliban on the negotiating table, he said.Hekmatyar arrived in Islamabad for the first time after his landmark deal with the Kabul government in 2016, which ended his 20-year-long self-imposed exile. He formed his political party Hezb-e-Islami in the mid-70s which is ideologically inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami. The 71-year-old leader was received on Saturday by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “We welcome every country and individual who is taking any step for peace in Afghanistan. War always ends with peace and now war in our country will also end with peace,” Hekmatyar said.He demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and reiterated the need to allow the Afghan people decide their future.Hekmatyar asked the Afghan political and religious leaders to brainstorm for a system to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country. He said no one should be allowed to use the Afghan soil to harm another state and urged the government to follow a balanced foreign policy.“The government should not interfere in conflict of others. They should not use one group against another.”Separately, the United States and the Taliban will open fresh negotiations next week, the US negotiator said Saturday, as he voiced hope for progress in ending America´s longest war.Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative on Afghanistan, said the two sides would start their seventh round of talks on June 29. “Based on my recent visits to Afghanistan and Qatar, I believe all sides want rapid progress,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.The State Department, announcing Khalilzad´s travel before the date of the latest talks were set, said the negotiations with the Taliban would take place as usual in Qatar.Khalilzad is hoping to negotiate a deal under which the United States would withdraw troops first sent after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In turn, the Taliban would guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used as a staging ground by extremists such as Al-Qaeda — the main reason for the US invasion nearly two decades earlier. The Taliban have refused US appeals to end the violence to improve the atmosphere of talks, instead pressing on with their insurgency.