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ISLAMABAD: Director General of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Babar Iftikhar, on Saturday, said that there was no question of giving bases to the US, while adding that India's investment in Afghanistan appears to be sinking. "If India had invested in Afghanistan in good faith, then it would not have been disappointed today," said the DG ISPR in a conversation with a private TV channel. The head of the military's media wing said that India's goal was to harm Pakistan by stepping into Afghanistan.

He added that New Delhi was trying to tell the world that Pakistan is the "cause of problems in Afghanistan".

Maj-Gen Iftikhar said that there was no truth to the claims made by India, adding that "the world knows that Pakistan has tried its utmost to solve the Afghan problem in the best possible manner".

While talking about the US role, he said the only expectation from the United States was that there would be a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan. He explained that by a responsible withdrawal, he meant a proper transfer of authority and lamented that the withdrawal by the US forces was done a little early.

The DG ISPR also responded to the rumours circulating in the media on American bases in Pakistan.

The DG ISPR said that the Pakistani government had made it clear that there was no question of giving bases to the US as there is no need for it.

The head of the military's media wing regretted the lack of work done by the Afghan government on the border management with Pakistan.

"Border management should have been done on the other side as well, but unfortunately that has not been done," said the DG ISPR.

However, he assured the nation that Pakistan is determined to not allow anyone to use its soil against another country.

"We will not allow any unwanted people to enter the country," he said.

Maj-Gen Iftikhar said that border management was needed as everyone knows that Daesh and the TTP are in Afghanistan and have occasionally tried to harm Pakisan's interests.

He said that security at the country's border with Afghanistan was much better today.

He added that additional Frontier Corps' wings have been formed to further enhance the security at the border.

The DG ISPR said that 90 percent of the fencing on the Pak-Afghan border was complete.

He also said the Interior Ministry has made plans to deal with the influx of refugees in case violence escalates in Afghanistan.

Maj-Gen Iftikhar stated that Pakistan sincerely spoke about advancing the Afghan peace process as troop withdrawal was announced by the then US President Donald Trump.

He further said it is up to the Afghans what kind of government they seek and how they want to take Afghanistan forward.

He also assured everyone that Pakistan will try to resolve the deadlock, if the Afghans have reached that position.

"If Afghans hit a deadlock then we too are working to resolve it. But even we have our limitations and we can only advance things to an extent," said the DG IPSR.

He added that international stakeholders know that Pakistan has made sincere attempts to resolve the Afghan conflict.

The major general said that Afghans have the ability to sit down and decide on the future they want for their country.

The direction of things to happen will be determined by the internal situation in Afghanistan.

"Decisions such as these cannot be forced with the use of guns. If that was the case, then it would have happened in these 20 years that have passed," said Maj Gen Iftikhar.

The DG ISPR warned that decisions will have to be made through talks or the situation may lead to a civil war.

He added that no one would benefit from civil war and it would only harm the whole region.

"All factions in Afghanistan are tired of the 40-year violence," he said.

Monitoring Desk adds: Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said on Saturday that Pakistan was a facilitator of the Afghan peace process and not a guarantor.

In an exclusive interview with a private TV channel on the situation in Afghanistan, the ISPR chief said there were a lot of aspects to the peace process.

He said "spoilers" were trying to hold Pakistan responsible for the situation deteriorating in Afghanistan.

"But there is no truth is these allegations. The world is very well aware that Pakistan has made every effort to solve the Afghan issue, without violence and according to the wishes of the Afghan people."

He said India was not gaining any traction on the propaganda it was trying to perpetuate in this regard.

Commenting on Taliban officials saying the group had taken control of 85 per cent of territory in Afghanistan, the ISPR chief said that a lot of hard work and money had been putting into training the Afghan National Army (ANA).

"The ANA is of course present on ground [...] but their strategy seems to show that they are probably more concerned about the main cities."

He said that the Taliban's claims were an "exaggeration" and the number was likely closer to 45-50 percent.

He reiterated that there was a force on ground in Afghanistan with its own capacity and potential. "But the reports that are being received right now show an increase in the speed of the Taliban."

He said that the US was in the process of withdrawing troops which would be completed by August 31. "At the end of the day, regional stakeholders will have to sit down with the Afghans to find a solution."

The ISPR chief said often Pakistan is blamed for the problems being faced in Afghanistan.

"The ANA has been equipped and has been trained [...] they have an air force and special forces. As a professional soldier I would like to say that they should have the capacity to withstand this onslaught and should be able to fight."

When a journalist pointed out that the perception in Afghanistan was that the Taliban would be coming into power, he said: "We need to understand that if that happens, that would be the decision of the Afghans. No one will dictate this decision from the outside."

Gen Iftikhar said the whole world was a witness to the sincerity with which Pakistan had pursued the Afghan peace process. "We have always said that we have no favourites in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have to decide which government they want and how to take the country forward."

He said Pakistan had certain "limits" in the help it could extend and certain decisions needed to be taken by the Afghans. "At the end of the day the Afghans will have to decide [...] and they have the capability and capacity to sit down and decide."

The DG ISPR said guns cannot decided the future of Afghanistan. "Guns could not decide in the past 20 years, so how could they decide now?"

When a journalist pointed out the recent onslaught by the Taliban, he replied: "That is just a phase. Eventually they will have to sit down and decide, otherwise this will convert into a civil war which will not benefit anyone."

"As far as Daesh and TTP presence is concerned, everyone knows they are in Afghanistan and they try to hurt Pakistan's interest. We have had casualties during fencing and we have raised this issue with the Afghan government several times."

However, he said, Pakistan was "very well prepared" and the current border security mechanism was "much better".

He said Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against anyone nor would allow "unwanted" people to enter the country.

"But border security is two-way traffic. The other side should have made arrangements like the ones we have made, which unfortunately they did not."

He refrained from commenting on the reasons for this but said that the Afghan side had not been kept "air tight".

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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