Afghan ambassador to return to Pakistan after PM Khan's remarks clarified

Published March 29, 2019
Afghan Ambassador Shukrullah Atif Mashal. — Photo courtesy: @MashalAtif
Afghan Ambassador Shukrullah Atif Mashal. — Photo courtesy: @MashalAtif

Afghanistan will return its ambassador to Islamabad after Pakistan clarified Prime Minister Imran Khan's remarks that Kabul had deemed to be political interference, the Afghan foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The prime minister had told journalists on Monday that forming an interim Afghan government would smoothen peace talks between the United States and Taliban officials, according to published comments.

The Afghan government recalled ambassador Atif Mashal from Islamabad the next day and demanded an explanation for remarks that it called “irresponsible.”

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, also criticised Khan, drawing a sharp response from Pakistan. In a tweet on Wednesday addressed to the premier, Bass told the renowned former cricketer not to “ball-tamper” with Afghan affairs.

But after clarifications from the prime minister and the foreign ministry, Mashal will return to Islamabad, Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi said in a tweet.

The Foreign Office had on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Khan's comments, reported by Pakistani media outlets and picked up in Afghanistan, had been taken out of context.

Dismissing the outrage over the news report, it stated that the premier had only been referring to "Pakistan’s model, where elections are held under an interim government. The comments should not be misinterpreted to imply interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs."

Kabul has demanded an explanation from Islamabad three times in just over a month for comments related to peace talks aimed at ending 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

US and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks but the Taliban have refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate “puppet” regime.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's mandate officially expires in May and he faces a re-election battle. But the date for the vote has been postponed twice and is now set for September 28.

Ghani has been shut out from the peace talks and is under pressure from rivals to step aside and allow a caretaker government to take over, a suggestion he has rejected.

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