Pakistan is widely despised in Afghanistan, particularly by minorities who dominate the countrys north, because of its sponsorship of the Talibans bloody nationwide takeover in the mid-1990s and the support and sanctuary that they and other insurgents allegedly still receive from the Pakistani army and the army-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI.
In principles governing the new peace process, the plan reiterates Afghan and U.S. demands that the Taliban and other insurgents cut ties with al Qaida and renounce violence.
But in a shift that could raise concerns among human rights and womens groups, the plan changes what had been a demand for the insurgents accept the Afghan Constitution to one that they respect it.
Any outcome of the peace process must respect the Afghan Constitution and must not jeopardize the rights and freedoms that the citizens of Afghanistan, both men and women, enjoy under the Constitution, the plan says.
The plan comprises five steps. The first step, which now appears underway, calls for Pakistan to end cross-border shelling of Afghan villages and to free Taliban detainees. Nine were released last month after Rabbanis visit, and Pakistan has agreed to free more.
In the first half of 2013, Afghan, U.S. and Pakistani officials are to agree on terms for removing Taliban leaders willing to engage in peace talks from a U.N. terrorism list and giving them safe passage. Pakistan would facilitate direct contact between Afghan officials and identified leaders of the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.
Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. officials would explore and agree to terms for initiating direct peace talks between the sides with a focus on Saudi Arabia as the venue.
The negotiations would begin in the second half of 2013 preferably through one consistent and coherent channel, with the aim of securing agreements on priority issues, such as ending violence, allowing space for the provision of basic public services, e.g. education, humanitarian aid, and security the conduct of the upcoming elections, the plan says.
The sides would agree to a ceasefire and terms for the release of Taliban prisoners by the government in return for their agreement to disengage and renounce violence.
The sides also would reach an understanding on issues related to security and the withdrawal of international forces. and agree on rules for the insurgents participation in 2014 provincial council and 2015 parliamentary elections.
Another provision would confer considerable political power on the insurgents by allowing them to become cabinet members, provincial governors, district administrators, police chiefs and other key officials.
The negotiating parties to agree on modalities for the inclusion of Taliban and other armed opposition leaders in the power structure of the state, to include non-elected positions at different levels with due consideration of legal and governance principles, the plan says.
That provision, combined with one for an agreement creating immediate space for education and humanitarian and development aid and public services, could effectively cede political control of the Talibans southern and eastern heartland to the insurgents.
The agreements would be implemented in the first half of 2014, and the final phase, set for the second half of 2014, would be used to build international cooperation on preserving the long-term stability of Afghanistan and the region, the plan says.
CORRECTION: Paragraph 10 of this version has been revised to provide the correct date for the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.