Mehmood Khan Achakzai
Mehmood Khan Achakzai

PESHAWAR: Remarks attributed to Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai in a recent interview with an Afghanistan publication raised a storm of controversy on Thursday, causing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister to pour scorn on the veteran Pakhtun leader.

Apparently Mr Achakzai said in the interview published by the Afghanistan Times that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa belonged to Afghans and he would not allow anyone to harass Afghan refugees.

“If Afghans are harassed in other parts of Pakistan, they should come here to the Pakhtunkhwa province, where no one can ask them for refugee cards, because it also belongs to them,” he was reported to have said.

“Kabul and Islamabad should exercise extreme caution to resolve Torkham crossing conflict. Otherwise, they should leave the issue to the US and China, and they would resolve it within two weeks.”

Mr Achakzai’s remarks emerged a day after the government granted registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan — whose stay in the country was set to expire on June 30 — another six-month extension, as the UN refugee agency doubled its assistance package for families who opted to return voluntarily to Afghanistan.

The extension, applicable to over 1.5 million refugees who hold proof of registration (PoR) cards until Dec 31 this year, was announced by the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday.

“In order to facilitate relocation and as a gesture of continued goodwill, Pakistan shall commit provision of wheat free-of-cost for the relocated camps in Afghanistan for a period of three years,” according to the statement.

Mr Achakzai’s remarks caused Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to see red and the latter lashed out at the veteran Pakhtun leader from Balochistan.

“Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s interview has made Pakistanis hang their heads in shame at what he said. The province had joined Pakistan in 1947 as a result of a vote,” the chief minister said in a statement issued on Thursday.

CM Khattak asked the PkMAP chief if he could think of Pakistan without Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Terming Mr Achakzai’s remarks highly condemnable, he said the people of the province had rejected them.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister also met the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, on Thursday and told him that the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were the legitimate residents of the province.

He also discussed with the ambassador the return of Afghan refugees to their country.

With the controversy over his remarks raging throughout the province, Mr Achakzai told a television news channel later in the day that the Afghan newspaper had misquoted him.

According to him, all he had said was that historically Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was part of Afghanistan.

He insisted that he had never said that the province belonged to Afghans.

He recalled that he was answering a question about the repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2016

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