KARACHI: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi refrained from calling Osama bin Laden a terrorist in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News.
When the interviewer quoted Prime Minister Imran Khan as calling Osama bin Laden a “martyr”, Mr Qureshi said: “Well, again. Out of context. He [the PM] was quoted out of context. And, a particular section of the media pair it up.”
Asked if he would disagree, the foreign minister paused for a while and then said: “I will let it pass.”
Asked if he was against a Taliban military takeover, he said: “We have never said, we have never supported or advocated a takeover of Kabul by force.… See, what I have said is it is for you, the people of Afghanistan, to decide what you want.”
Says Pakistan is not responsible if Afghan leadership can’t work out a peace deal
Mr Quershi made it clear that Pakistan wanted to see an independent, sovereign, prosperous, democratic Afghanistan.
Responding to a question if Afghanistan was heading to civil war again, the foreign minister said: “I hope not. I hope not. Please, that’s why I’m saying, please sit together and carve out a way forward, you know, which is coexistence, reconciliation. Accept each other. You have to accept each other. You know, the people and government in Afghanistan and the Taliban that have been fighting for decades now, they’re both Afghans. You have to reconcile, and you have to find a way forward. We’re concerned because God forbid, if there is civil war…. It depends on you, depends on the Afghan leadership, depends on the ability of the Afghan leadership to carve a way forward. If you fail, if the Afghan leadership fail, then yes, we are heading for a civil war. And God forbid, if there is one, then you suffer and we suffer as well.”
The minister regretted that when things were not moving in the right direction, one looked for the scapegoats. “And the favorite scapegoat you have is Pakistan. When there’s failure within [Afghanistan], you blame Pakistan for that. Pakistan is not responsible for the failure within. Pakistan is not responsible for the squabbling that is going on in Afghanistan. Pakistan is not responsible if the Afghan leadership cannot sit and work out a peace deal. We’re not responsible for that. It’s yours. We’re saying we want to be helpful.”
Responding to a question about the change in Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan, Mr Qureshi said: “We want Afghanistan to be peaceful and stable because we feel that a peaceful Afghanistan, a stable Afghanistan, gives us the regional connectivity that is required. If we’re looking for economic security and if we’re looking for investments and promotion of bilateral trade and regional trade, it can only come with peace, and peace and stability...is not just Afghanistan’s requirement; it’s Pakistan’s desire as well. You know, we benefit from it.”
He expressed the hope that the Afghan government and the Taliban can get over the stalemate in peace talks, because if stalemate continues, and the US forces withdrawal is completed, unfortunately, the Afghans will be sacked back into the 90s, which is neither good for Afghanistan nor for Pakistan, and which is not good for the region.
“Can Afghanistan afford another civil war? Can you afford another, you know, a decade of anarchy? You cannot, and you should not. You know, I feel for the people of Afghanistan. They have suffered enough,” said Mr Qureshi in the interview conducted at his office in Islamabad.
“And, the second country that has suffered after you is us [Pakistan]. We’ve lost 83,000 lives on a counterterrorism. We’ve had our economy suffered,” he added.
When the interviewer quoted the late Hamid Gul as saying that the ISI with the help of America defeated America and asked for Mr Qureshi’s comment, the foreign minister said: “I do not understand in what context that statement is made so, you know, if you pick up two lines, I do not know the background and what context that statement was made, so how can I comment on it?” He said the late general was no longer with us and that he could not verify what the journalist had stated.
But he said the Americans came for a purpose, they felt they had achieved that purpose, not just one, both administrations.
While rejecting the idea of giving military bases to or sharing intelligence with the US for operations inside Afghanistan from Pakistani soil, the minister said Pakistan was willing to help in pushing the peace process forward. “We’re willing to help in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, rehabilitation. We’re willing to partner with Afghanistan, with the US, on countering terrorism. Yes, we will be partners for peace.”
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2021