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Editorial: New players in Afghan peace

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The National Unity Government has opened many doors to galvanize the Afghan peace process as it earned domestic and international support by unprecedented decision of ceasefire. As if overnight, the atmosphere of unity had become so pronounced here, and both sides embraced ceasefire so absolute that Afghan security forces and Taliban members did not even hesitate when they rushed toward each other without taking their weapons from vehicles. There was nothing to be fearful about. Taking note, President Ashraf Ghani extended ceasefire for 10 days more, but Taliban rejected extension rather resumed operations, leaving scores of security forces killed and wounded. Not stopping here as they also called strict punishment for those Taliban members taken selfies, hugging security forces during three Eid days truce. They furthered warned peace marchers who called on Taliban to extend ceasefire with government. Taliban spokesman dismissed peace slogans and urged civil society activists and others not to join peace movements who came to Kabul on foot from southern province of Helmand this month who plead all sides to end a conflict which has now lasted for 40 years. Besides negative response, encouraging signs have been seen for substantive talks between government and Taliban after 17 years of war. No doubt that ceasefire initiative had also cut deep into the Taliban. Time will prove how this will go forward. But for Afghan masses, peace is the first and last demand. Nothing is important then having a peaceful state to live without fears. Nationally, the quest for peace is very much higher with tireless efforts to its achievements. Unfortunately, the Afghan war alongside internal, it has external factors which is needed to be resolved. Government already approached Pakistan, but more pressure is required and UK by taking its leverage on Islamabad could galvanize Afghan peace process. Days ago, President Ghani and Boris Johnson, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who visited Kabul, have discussed a range of issues, including the unilateral ceasefire of the Afghan government with Taliban, the peace process, anti-terror efforts, regional cooperation and role of Afghanistan in economic development in Asia, especially in South and Central Asia. UK top official also urged all countries with influence in Afghanistan, especially in the neighborhood, to use it constructively at this crucial movement. London can play key role in bringing peace in Afghanistan by pressurizing Pakistan. Both states are enjoying friendly and old relationships, so Islamabad would leave with no other option but to cooperate with Afghan government in the war on terror. In case of rejection, Britain can increase political pressure, even suspend its diplomatic relations as well cut in financial aids to Islamabad. It can also encourage US and Arabic countries to do the same as peace interlinked with Pakistan.