ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Indonesian President Joko Widodo proposed Friday the establishment of a committee of Islamic scholars from his nation together with others from Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict.
Widodo made the proposal as he opened a two-day official visit to Islamabad along with a large delegation of ministers and business leaders from Indonesia.
Widodo told Pakistani President Momnoon Hussain that Indonesia could play “a positive role” in the Afghan peace process, according to an official announcement after the meeting between the two leaders.
“He [Widodo] also proposed the establishment of a committee of Indonesian, Afghan and Pakistani Ulemas [Muslim scholars] for this purpose,” the statement read.
Hussain agreed to the proposal and both the countries vowed to work together in this regard, saying peace in Afghanistan was necessary for regional development and progress, according to the statement.
Earlier, Widodo addressed a specially convened joint session of the Pakistani parliament and underscored the importance of political stability and security for regional economic progress.
“Conflicts and wars will benefit no one,” said the Indonesian president. “The people, mainly women and children, always become the most impacted ones in conflict and wars.”
He was addressing lawmakers of a country accused of secretly supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and allowing insurgents to use Pakistani soil for plotting cross-border attacks.
Islamabad denies the charges and insists peace in Afghanistan is essential for stability in Pakistan.
Widodo emphasized the need for resolving conflicts through dialogue. He recalled that his own country underwent conflict for a long time.
“Conflict in Aceh in Indonesia, for example, took place for more than 30 years. A military approach alone did not resolve the conflict in Aceh,” he said.
About 87 percent of Indonesia’s estimated population of 260 million people are Muslims, making it the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.
There was no immediate reaction from Kabul authorities to Widodo’s proposed three-nation committee of Muslim scholars.
However, a high-powered delegation of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), a panel appointed by the Afghan president for promoting peace and reconciliation with Taliban-led insurgent groups, visited Jakarta late last year with a mission to involve the country in efforts aimed at ending the Afghan war.
The HPC sought the support of Indonesian Islamic scholars to rally arguments against the Taliban’s religious justification of their war as being against the “foreign infidels and their hirelings.” That’s the language typically used in insurgent statements, according to the Kabul-based independent Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).
The council’s chairman, Abdul Karim Khalili, said Indonesia could effectively support the peace process because the country is not involved in the Afghan conflict and enjoys a “good reputation” among Afghans, with Indonesians forming the largest national group of Islamic scholars worldwide, noted AAN in a detailed article published this week on Afghan peace efforts.