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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, on Thursday, urged the regional and international partners to constructively engage with Afghanistan including by supporting the country’s economy, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and humanitarian needs.

Speaking at his weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said that Pakistan is committed to work together with the international community to advance the shared objectives of peace, progress, and stability in Afghanistan.

“At this critical juncture, there is an opportunity in the form of international community’s convergence on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. It would also be imperative for the regional and international partners to constructively engage with Afghanistan including by supporting the country’s economy, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and humanitarian needs,” he underscored.

He said that Pakistan continues to closely follow the developments in Afghanistan.

He said that there has been intensive diplomatic outreach and engagement by Pakistan at the leadership level with a number of partners in the region and beyond.

He also reiterated Pakistan’s strong condemnation of the heinous terrorist attacks in Kabul last week that resulted in loss of precious lives.

He said that the perpetrators of these terrorist acts must be brought to justice.

“And even more important, the spoilers must be held accountable, and isolated, as we have been saying before,” he said.

The spokesperson did not name any one as spoiler; however, Pakistan has long been describing India’s role in Afghanistan as a spoiler.

Along with Afghanistan, he added that Pakistan itself has been the biggest victim of the situation, having lost over 80,000 lives and over $150 billion in economy, besides hosting millions of refugees.

“No other country or people have suffered and sacrificed as much,” he added.

“Peace in Afghanistan is also critical to realise our vision of regional connectivity, economic integration and development. That explains our interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Therefore, the country most desirous of peace in Afghanistan is Pakistan,” he asserted.

“That brings us to the larger issue of how to seize the opportunity for lasting peace - and galvanise the international community’s engagement in support of an inclusive political settlement in the Afghan context, that would ensure lasting peace and stability and avert a humanitarian crisis in that country,” he added.

He said that Pakistan’s position is clear, and “our role is constructive”.

He referred to a flurry of engagements in recent days, saying that German and Dutch foreign ministers were in Islamabad during the week.

He pointed out that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi undertook visits to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran last week, where he held meetings with his counterparts and also called on the leadership of these countries.

During these interactions, views were exchanged on ways to promote a coordinated regional approach, he added.

During the past two weeks, he added Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to a number of world leaders including the President of the Russian Federation, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of European Council, and President of the Asian Development Bank, besides meeting of the WFP Executive Director with the prime minister.

During the same period, he added the foreign minister spoke with his counterparts from Canada, Turkey, Russia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Australia, and the UK, as well as the OIC Secretary General and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The foreign minister also received a telephone call from the UN Secretary-General, he added.

He pointed out that Pakistan’s facilitation for the evacuations from Afghanistan has been widely acknowledged by world leaders and heads of international organisations. As of Wednesday, over 12,000 individuals from around 38 nationalities had been evacuated with Pakistan’s assistance, he added.

He said that Pakistan is also facilitating the establishment of “humanitarian air bridge” with the World Food Programme (WFP), adding that first cargo flight of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also delivered essential medicines and other supplies to Afghanistan in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The spokesperson expressed deep sorrow and grief over the sad passing away of the iconic leader of Kashmiri resistance, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. “We are deeply saddened at the passing away of the iconic leader of Kashmiri resistance, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, under prolonged house arrest in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The nation pays rich tribute to his life-long struggle for justice and freedom,” he said.

“We are sure his legacy will continue to inspire all those carrying his mission forward to bring an end to illegal Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. We are observing a day of official mourning, with the Pakistan flag flying at half-mast,” he said.

He also shared Pakistan’s strong condemnations of the barbaric act of snatching of the mortal remains of Syed Geelani by the Indian occupation forces as his family was preparing for his last rites. “It is deeply regrettable that he was not allowed to be buried in accordance with his will, and the wishes of his family members. This shows the highest degree of callousness on part of the occupation forces in complete disregard of civil and human values,” he added.

He said that the international community must take serious note of the unprecedented and egregious situation and hold India to account for its breaches of international human rights and humanitarian laws.

He said that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible support to the Kashmiri people till the realisation of their legitimate right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

“We are extremely concerned by, and strongly condemn the systematic and grave human rights violations and trampling of fundamental rights in the IIOJK, a situation that has continued for decades and has been escalated ever since India’s illegal actions of 5 August 2019. This exposes the true face of India’s sham democracy and secular credentials,” he added.

When asked his response as to the US used Pakistan’s airspace for recent drone attacks in Afghanistan, the spokesperson expressed his inability to confirm, saying: “It’s a technical matter and I don’t have anything to share on this.”

However, he referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s past statements in which he had opposed and voiced condemnation of the US drone attacks inside Pakistan.

As far as the US drone attacks in Afghanistan are concerned, he added that it is up to the Afghan leadership to give their response.

To another query about the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) presence in Afghanistan, he said that the TTP is a UN Security Council’s proscribed terrorist outfit and Pakistan would continue to raise the matter with the future Afghan government.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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