Asia - Pacific

'Pakistan's role, leverage over Taliban vastly exaggerated'

Progress in intra-Afghan talks did not coincide with pace of int'l troops' withdrawal, says Pakistani envoy to Turkey

Merve Aydogan   | 01.09.2021
'Pakistan's role, leverage over Taliban vastly exaggerated'

ANKARA

As the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan after taking control of the capital Kabul on Aug. 15, Pakistan's envoy to Ankara stressed that his country's "role and leverage" over the group "has always been vastly exaggerated."

Speaking to a group of reporters from the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Turkey, Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi hailed relations with Turkey.

"Turkey has been a very, very solid partner of Pakistan over the years, on issues relating to Afghanistan. It was a facilitator, in terms of helping facilitate a conversation between us and the previous Afghan set-up. And we participated in that process with an open mind and open heart, and found the process to be useful," he said.

On Pakistan's position on the Taliban, Ambassador Qazi told reporters that a "very high-level, non-Taliban delegation" from Afghanistan had visited Pakistan's Foreign Office at the height of events on Aug. 15.

"Our consistent message to the Taliban, and everybody else, has been and will always be to find a peaceful negotiated settlement which is inclusive. Inclusive politically, inclusive ethnically, and inclusive, to the extent possible, gender-wise," he added.

Qazi stressed that Islamabad was one of the countries that would benefit the most from a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

"Pakistan's objectives relating to economic security and enhanced regional connectivity require peace and stability in Afghanistan," he said. That is why Pakistan has always been calling for a political settlement in Afghanistan and has been facilitating efforts to that end when the international consensus emerged on this position, he added.

Noting that Pakistan has been participating in a number of regional and international mechanisms toward this end, the envoy said that the "progress in intra-Afghan negotiations did not coincide with the pace of withdrawal of international troops. The Ghani government was more focused on externalizing the blame for all the ills that it was facing."

He said the "first immediate priority was the safe evacuation of foreign nationals and many Afghans," while noting that "so far over 10,000 nationals and staff of foreign embassies, United Nations, and other international organizations, as well as media personnel, have been safely evacuated," by Pakistan's help.

"Thousands of more are expected to transit through Pakistan," he added.

Underlining that Pakistan and Turkey are in contact with each other on the issue of Afghanistan, the ambassador said Turkey is "already in direct conversation" with Afghan actors.

"If Turkey can contribute in any way (to peace and stability to Afghanistan), it will only ease the burden on the rest of the international community, and it will also help the Afghans. It will make Pakistan's job easier also," he noted.

Qazi stated that Pakistan is aware of Turkey's "intention and desire to assist Afghanistan by running or providing some kind of technical or security support or operational support" for the airport serving Kabul.

"We support it, to the extent that it also meets with the approval of all the Afghan parties and they are able to reach an agreement on that. I believe there are contacts between the Turkish authorities and the powers that be in Afghanistan, to see if this can work out," he said.

He also underlined that Turkey "is an actor among so many in the world that enjoy a high degree of trust, on the part of almost all Afghans across Afghan society."

"So if any country, is to do this (role in Kabul Airport), perhaps, Turkey is the one to do it," he added.

On the issue of Afghan refugees, Qazi said his country has hosted at least 3-4 million since 1979.

"We want the Afghan refugees who are living in Pakistan to be able to finally return with honor and dignity. We have tried to take good care of these refugees," he said.

Noting that "the third generation of Afghans is coming up who have not seen their homeland," the envoy further stressed that "sometimes, the world forgets the economic impact of refugees."

He said Pakistan's issue with the refugees was not due to the country's "unwillingness, but simply about means."

"We share whatever little we have but we believe that the issue has to be dealt with comprehensively. The entire international community needs to pitch in."

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