- Maintains Islamabad has called for a responsible and orderly withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday that if Afghanistan remains unstable, Pakistan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, adding that the world should not remain oblivious to Pakistan’s fight against terrorism.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the foreign minister said that instead of pointing fingers, the Afghan government should work with Pakistan to resolve issues.
“We also urge the government of Afghanistan to refrain from a blame game, and engage with Pakistan to resolve all issues,” Qureshi said.
Reiterating Pakistan’s position on the Afghan peace process, FM Qureshi said that Pakistan is only a facilitator of the Afghan peace process.
“The Afghan peace process is at a critical juncture, and all energies should focus on finding a broad-based and inclusive settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” the foreign minister emphasised.
FM Qureshi restated that Pakistan has no favorites in Afghanistan. “We see all sides in the Afghan conflict as Afghans. They [Afghan] have to decide their future."
He further added that it is unfortunate that Pakistan is being made a scapegoat for the failure of others in Afghanistan. “Can we be held responsible for the lack of will to fight and capitulation from Afghan forces?” he asked.
The foreign minister termed Afghanistan’s UN Ambassador Ghulam M Isaczai’s recent comments at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as an effort to mislead the international community. “The Afghan Ambassador only propagated misinformation and mislead the international community with his comments at the UNSC,” he stated.
Last week, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had convened an emergency meeting to discuss rising violence in Afghanistan. Isaczai and Indian diplomats at the forum said that terrorists use Pakistan’s territory as a safe haven.
Rejecting allegations about safe havens and sanctuaries, Qureshi said that Pakistan has eradicated all terrorist sanctuaries from its soil.
He further noted that as the US and NATO forces' withdrawal nears completion, "we are seriously concerned about the level of violence in Afghanistan". “The reports regarding human rights violations are concerning,” he said.
Reiterating Pakistan's position to support the Afghan peace process with sincerity, he said that Pakistan has been honest in facilitating the peace process. "Peace in Afghanistan serves Pakistan's objective of achieving economic security.”
Answering a question regarding Pakistan’s position on the withdrawal of international troops, the foreign minister said, “We have called for a responsible and orderly withdrawal. It means that when you are withdrawing, leave in a manner that there is no vacuum left. If there is a vacuum, only militants will fill it.”
“The actual benefices of the vacuum will be the terrorist organisations,” he added.
When asked if Pakistan supports a complete military takeover in Afghanistan, FM Qureshi said that Pakistan has not been supportive of a military takeover. “We are only talking about the political settlement. A military takeover will result in a lot of bloodshed. The people of Afghanistan have already suffered a lot and their suffering should come to an end.”
He urged the Afghan leadership to take responsibility and rise to the occasion.
In a question on Pakistan and the US interests in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said: “Our objectives in Afghanistan are in sync as everyone wants peace in Afghanistan.”
“If our [US and Pakistan] interests are linked, we should be working more closely,” he said. "The lack of cooperation does not help achieve shared objectives.
“Let the world know that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a shared responsibility. But the international community cannot shy away, and should play its role,” he emphasised.
Responding to a question regarding criticism from the Afghan government, he said Pakistan has chosen to exercise restraint in the larger interest of the region.
“The present Afghan rulers have their perspective, but our understanding is that the people of Afghanistan want peace,” he noted.
“Afghan people are looking towards all regional stakeholders to play their role in facilitating the peace process."
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that political reconciliation is the only solution to the Afghan conflict as the United States failed to seek a military solution to the issue.
In an interview aired on PBS NewsHour, Imran had said Pakistan desires peace in the region and cannot become part of the dispute. He said that there is no military solution to the Afghan issue. "I think the US has really messed it up in Afghanistan," he remarked.
He maintained that the US should have opted for a political settlement much earlier when there were as many as 150,000 troops in Afghanistan.
"But once they had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and then when they gave an exit date the Taliban thought they had won. And so, therefore, it was very difficult for now to get them to compromise," he regretted.