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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday angrily reacted to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s tweets expressing concern on a crackdown on protests by a Pakhtun rights movement and asked him to instead look inwards and address the grievances of his own people.

“We reject the tweet by President Ashraf Ghani. Such irresponsible statements are only gross interference,” Mr Qureshi shot back, saying: “Afghan leadership needs to focus on long-standing serious grievances of the Afghan people.”

President Ghani had earlier tweeted: “The Afghan government has serious concerns about the violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters and civil activists in Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa and Balochistan.”

The Afghan president was referring to the death of an activist during an alleged police crackdown on a protest in Loralai and the unrest over allegations of harassment of a family in Khaisoor.

In his second tweet, President Ghani said: “We believe it is the moral responsibility of every government to support civil activities that take a stand against the terrorism and extremism that plagues and threatens our region and collective security. Otherwise there could be long-standing negative consequences.”

Pakistan’s security establishment believes that the protests by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) are being manipulated by hostile external elements as part of what it calls the “fifth generation warfare” being thrust on Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Moshin Dawar, a member National Assembly who has remained associated with the PTM, welcomed President Ghani’s tweets.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser also jumped into the twitter spat saying President Ghani’s tweets were “highly irresponsible, outrageous, gross interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and against the norms of internationally recognised principles of inter-state relations”.

He feared that such statements by Afghan leadership could hurt efforts for repairing bilateral ties that had long been marred by mistrust. “The Afghan president instead of pointing accusing finger towards Pakistan is better advised to focus on resolving the problems of his own people and finding solutions to the intractable issues confronting his country,” Mr Asad said echoing the foreign minister.

He hoped that the Afghan president would be more discreet while making such observations about Pakistan and keep in view the diplomatic norms that governed inter-state relations.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2019