ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on Friday, said that Pakistan was advocating power-sharing in Afghanistan to avoid a civil war in the landlocked country and it had asked Afghan President Ashraf Ghani “to explain whether his priority is to give extension to his rule or peace and stability in Afghanistan”.
The foreign minister together with National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs chaired by Senator Sherry Rehman on the evolving security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s approach to dealing with its likely impacts on the country.
Responding to the concerns of the committee members, the NSA apprised the committee, saying that the situation in Afghanistan is “extremely bad” and is out of Pakistan’s control.
“We do not control whatever happens in Afghanistan,” Yusuf said, in a reference to the international community’s over expectations.
He said that expectations from the US would be useless as the Americans have psychologically left Afghanistan, besides their physical withdrawal.
The NSA also expressed concern over the absence of any economic plan to sustain Afghanistan.
“We have been asking the Afghan government to mend its ties with Pakistan as it would get benefit from the connectivity projects,” he said, adding that the landlocked Afghanistan can take advantage of Gwadar port for its trade.
“I don’t see the US offering a financial package to Afghanistan and in that case, only Pakistan can provide a trade route to the landlocked country,” he added.
Responding to the concerns raised by Mushahid Hussain Sayed and Palwasha Khan about the recently viral video of the local Taliban in Gilgit-Baltistan, the NSA said that the group has surrendered, which was being funded by India’s RAW.
“India is financially facilitating the propaganda and agencies have even made arrests in this regard. India has been trying to create unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan but our law enforcement agencies are alive to the situation to foil such designs,” he maintained.
He did not rule out the possibility of comeback of outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). TTP terrorists, he said, could enter Pakistan in the garb of Afghan refugees.
He said that Pakistan is very concerned about the changing situation following the US withdrawal and it would be adversely affected by the growing violence and civil war in Afghanistan.
Briefing the committee, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan is advocating power sharing in Afghanistan to avoid civil war, adding that in case of a civil war in the neighbouring country, Pakistan would not be able to handle the influx of refugees. He said that Pakistan wants the dignified return of the current Afghan refugees living in the country.
However, he added that in case of the influx of refugees, a number of options are being considered, including the Iranian model, to restrict their movements to camps.
“The situation in Afghanistan is worsening,” he said. “We are not apologetic and we are protecting our interest with full force…The entire world is witnessing Pakistan is not having much leverage with the Taliban,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said Taliban have serious reservations over the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s role in any future set-up.
“Don’t see them [Taliban] by their look, clothes, and Peshawari chappals. They are intelligent enough and have grown wiser over time,” he said, adding that Taliban have changed after “Doha talks”.
He further stated that he would be leaving for Uzbekistan today (Saturday) to represent Pakistan in a moot on Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan is not the only stakeholder in Afghanistan.
The minister said Afghanistan lacks the resources to ensure its security and Pakistan will have to prepare for dealing with the changing situation in the war-torn country as India wants to sabotage the peace process there.
Qureshi said India is playing the role of a “spoiler”, adding that New Delhi wants no stability in Afghanistan or in Pakistan.
“We have informed the US, the European nations and others about this,” he added.
In response to a question by the committee members, Qureshi said that if Taliban’s ideology becomes stronger, “the TTP can re-flourish”.
He further said that another briefing by the military leadership to lawmakers on national security would be organised before Eidul Azha. The foreign minister also rejected the impression that Pakistan stands isolated, saying that the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price’s statement was a testament to that.
“US State Department has termed Pakistan a helpful and constructive partner,” Qureshi said. He pointed out that while the US has set a deadline of August 31 for pulling out all its combat troops from Afghanistan, it is willing to continue to work in the region and with Pakistan on broader counterterrorism initiatives.
He said the facts that the world acknowledging that a military solution in Afghanistan is not a viable option and agreeing that a solution to the Afghan problem is only possible through peace-building and rapprochement vindicate Pakistan's approach to the issue.
He said that the US needed to pull out its troops from Afghanistan in an orderly manner, so as to ensure that there is no security vacuum left behind to be filled by “negative” elements in the war-torn country.
He said that the people of Afghanistan should decide their future.
“This is Pakistan's stance and in it lies Pakistan's best interest,” he said.
He warned that in case the situation in Afghanistan goes back to what it was in the 1990s, Pakistan would have to deal with a refugee influx.
In this regard, he said, Pakistan would be monitoring illegal border crossings. It would also fencing its borders, he added.
“We have to manage things in a better manner to control terrorism,” he added.
Sherry Rehman, in her remarks, stated that the situation in Afghanistan needs to be carefully handled as Pakistan cannot afford any development that threatens our national interests and undermines our efforts for a peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis.
“We have always supported a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict; however, it is important to take into account the post-withdrawal situation and encourage a more inclusive system of governance to give peace a chance to flourish as this will help in the progress and prosperity of the region,” she added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021