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For years, Pakistan has denied that the Afghan Taliban enjoys a safe haven on its soil or that Islamabad could do anything to end their violent campaign in Afghanistan that has seen tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and international troops killed since 2002.

But in an unusually candid admission, Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, says that Islamabad has considerable influence over the Taliban because its leaders live in the country.

"We have some influence over them because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities. Their families are here," he said. "We can use those levers to pressurise them to say, 'Come to the table'. But we can't negotiate on behalf of the Afghan government because we cannot offer them what the Afghan government can offer them."

Aziz made the comments at Washington's Council on Foreign Relations think tank on March 1. He added that Islamabad pressured Afghan Taliban leaders to participate in the first-ever direct talks with the Afghan government on July 7, 2015.

"We have to use these levers and [have] restricted their movements, restricted their access to hospitals and other facilities, and threatened them that 'If you don't come forward and talk, we will at least expel you'," he said of the tough message Islamabad sent to Taliban leaders, most of whom are believed to be operating out of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan Province.

"[We told the Taliban leaders that] we have hosted [them] enough for 35 years, and we can't do it anymore because the whole world is blaming us just by [their] presence here," he said.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States, and China last week agreed on a road map to end the Afghan war through negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

Taliban representatives are expected to join Afghan officials in the first round of peace talks in Pakistan during the next few weeks.

Aziz, however, took pains to convince Washington's audience that Islamabad has abandoned its support for the Islamist militant groups.

"After our government came into power in 2013, there has been a significant change in our policy. We are now moving against all terrorists without discrimination," he said.

Speaking alongside US State Secretary John Kerry on February 29, Aziz said Pakistan now has little interest in fomenting violence in neighboring Afghanistan.

"Who would like to set one's own neighbor on fire with the hope of saving one's backyard?" he asked.

This article was originally published on gandhara.rferl.org and has been reproduced with permission.


Comments (51) Closed



kranti Mar 02, 2016 08:09pm

After ruining a country, now you admitted...

unknown Mar 02, 2016 08:17pm

"Pakistan now has little interest in fomenting violence in neighboring Afghanistan." now not interested any more ?

Ahsan Gul Mar 02, 2016 08:20pm

The world knew that Pakistan was supporting and giving refuge to these afghan leaders. Now, Aziz admitted to this fact. Someone tell what the world will think about pakistani government?

Ali jee Mar 02, 2016 08:30pm

The world knows it's other reason the west wants to stay in Afghanistan and so they can stay in Middle East

Javid Shirazi Mar 02, 2016 08:37pm

Worst kept secret. Everybody knew about it.

Gokul_Ram Mar 02, 2016 08:41pm

What a shame..

indian humanity Mar 02, 2016 08:58pm

Truth is exposed at last

Irshad Noor Mar 02, 2016 09:08pm

it means that we were satisfied by war during last years. now we want peace but it is too late.

RAJA CHILL Mar 02, 2016 09:09pm

The leaders themself have no credibility left. They habitualy mislead. The image of country has become hostage to these leaders.and the crowd follows them.

shahzad Mar 02, 2016 09:19pm

After getting 50 thousand pakistanis killed and they still provide housing and medical to these terrorists. Shame on you government of Pakistan.

Karthik Mar 02, 2016 09:19pm

Hmmm ok we know it you now accept it. What else ... How about coming clean on the rest too Mr Aziz,

Taimoor khan Mar 02, 2016 09:24pm

One worders what Pakistan as a state achived from these so called "strategic" talks with America with nothing but harmful and negative vibes and messages coming for Pakistan out of this exercise. Aziz and his team should have stayed put back in Pakistan.

Pankaj Tiwari Mar 02, 2016 09:24pm

@Irshad Noor right my dear... It's too late now...the clock is ticking...

Sarcastic-Indian Mar 02, 2016 09:37pm

Hence Proved!

Sr Mar 02, 2016 09:41pm

This is what Afghanistan and other countries were pointing to for a long time. Now it is time Pakistan citizens question their government

BK Mar 02, 2016 09:42pm

Unfortunate Mr. Aziz openly admitted it.

Indian for peace Mar 02, 2016 10:12pm

Every one does mistakes good that Pakistan has admitted/confessed the fact that it is housing Afghan leaders, now India, Pakistan Afghanistan, US, China have to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

amit Mar 02, 2016 10:14pm

Pakistan has started thinking on right way.this admission is example of this.Hope pakistan will start taking action against hafiz syed and non stae actors which are operating from its soil, same will ensure peace with India

Farooq Mar 02, 2016 10:19pm

But government has no control or say whether to continue or abandon such support and this decision lies with establishment. So, let establishment clarify whether such policy is continuing or abandoned.

A Shah Mar 02, 2016 10:35pm

What a fool. Let's wait for the 'taken out of context' and 'misquoted' remarks.

AKB Mar 02, 2016 10:53pm

It is hoped that peace will prevail because there is a will on both sides.

lafanga Mar 02, 2016 10:59pm

Everyone knew there were some taliban leaders taking refuge in Pakistan since the taliban downfall in 2002. Question is were they directing any war efforts in Afghanistan from Pakistan? Most likely not. Pakistan probably gave them refuge to hold some cards in the future. Pakistan can use this now to bring them to the table which is a good thing. Now remember this, most of these taliban leaders were in Pakistan even before 911. There is no secret in this as some claim in their comments.

Jason Mar 02, 2016 11:04pm

@Ahsan Gul Exactly the same what they have thought of it so far... Completely useless and lying group of politicians...

Abdul Mar 02, 2016 11:32pm

More truths to come out.

Zak Mar 02, 2016 11:38pm

@Ahsan Gul who cares-ask the world, why are they now coming to Pakistan to sort their mess in Afghanistan. We housed them, we brought them to the negotiating table, we are hosting the Afghan antagonists and Two super powers, we are bringing peace in Afghanistan.

Abdul Mar 02, 2016 11:40pm

Finally. Admission is first step to correct its miscalculations. Hope bright days ahead for aam Pakistanis. Inshallah. Jai Hind.

berni Mar 03, 2016 12:26am

How hospitable we are to barbarians serving our evil expansionist schemes!

R.Subramanian Mar 03, 2016 12:50am

Ok ok everyone believed Aziz's words

A shah Mar 03, 2016 01:08am

Now is the time to go into denial mode and claim it was misquoted or taken out of context.

Assamese Mar 03, 2016 01:13am

No wonder that the country is in such disarray.

Kal Mar 03, 2016 01:31am

Let the world know the truth... Good intentions should be appreciated.

parveez Mar 03, 2016 02:43am

Pakistan politicians, have no credibility. Every one knows that they are selfish, and corrupt.
The people of pakistan are to be blamed for voting these criminals in again and again.

pkn Mar 03, 2016 03:04am

As usual it is false propaganda to tarnish the image of Pakistan

Muzzamil Mar 03, 2016 03:10am

It is so painful to hear this. We have to pay the penalty for this. Almost 50k got killed. And spent million of rupees to fight against terrorist and lost opportunity for millions of investments. Unfortunately this afghan taliban never paid us back by stopping TTP from what they were doing in Pakistan.

Ejaz Mar 03, 2016 03:18am

Every body forgot that Taliban has office in Qatar with approval of USA. All atacks in Pakistan done by Taliban came from Afghanistan armed by India. In this dirty war every country has blood on their hands.

Mare Mar 03, 2016 04:40am

@kranti After India and Russia did so for decades as well.

ZAK Mar 03, 2016 05:48am

We don't support them, we just provided humanitarian assistance.

Mustafa R. Mar 03, 2016 07:06am

@Pankaj Tiwari;

The clock is ticking but not for Pakistan. India is already out of Afghanistan and their clocked has stopped too.

East Indian Mar 03, 2016 07:44am

Truth alone conquers, not untruth

SKChadha Mar 03, 2016 09:01am

Aziz is telling a lie .... :-)))

Uzair Khan Mar 03, 2016 09:09am

Whats wrong in that ? Now its up to Afghan Govt. whether they want peace in their country or not ? I don't blame Pakistan

tasleem ulhaq Mar 03, 2016 09:09am

afghan taliban also has office in qatar , it doesn,t mean qatar is involved in terrorism.

taimoor khan Mar 03, 2016 09:30am

@ZAK Yes I agree, nothing wrong is providing moral support and health facilities to families of Afghan Taliban and Kashmiris

Vasan Mar 03, 2016 09:35am

Let Afghanistan and Afghani's live a daily peaceful life, please!

Kalashnikov Mar 03, 2016 09:38am

This is a scary confession by a foreign minister and totally destroys any negotiating power at the table . The levers described seem equally weak and the culpability claim seems to be more along the Americans already know it so why bother .

Zak Mar 03, 2016 09:48am

@Vasan Let Kashmiris live a peaceful life, I beg you, stop interfering in Kashmir in the name of freedom fighters.

Rizwan Mar 03, 2016 10:20am

This is a very serious and strange matter. If true then Pakistan should take action against these Taliban leaders.

Sr Mar 03, 2016 11:20am

@Ahsan Gul good question. What world thinking about Pakistan government is well known just that Pakistan government has buried it's head and try to keep its people ignorant

Peter Higgins Mar 03, 2016 02:09pm

@pkn In fact this enhances the image of Pakistan. This suggests that Pakistan is at last addressing their problems. I for one will keep watching for an opportunity to invest in the country as it seems huge steps are being made. The one area of little progress is electricity, but if this too could be addressed, Pakistan will really be an emerging economic power.

Christ Mar 03, 2016 09:45pm

We (Afghans) know it.

suchbaath Mar 04, 2016 10:40pm

People in power defines history, and is written the way they want to document. To most extent they control history, but cases are there when insider, or historian speaks the truth and gets documented, and puts a black spot on the record. Mr Aziz of his age spoke the truth to show his power over Taliban leaders, and forgot to realize it conflicts with the instructions.