Pakistan facilitator of Afghan peace process, not guarantor: ISPR chief

Published July 10, 2021
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar. — GVS Screengrab/File
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar. — GVS Screengrab/File

Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said on Saturday that Pakistan was a facilitator of the Afghan peace process and not a guarantor.

In an exclusive interview with ARY News on the situation in Afghanistan, the ISPR chief said there were a lot of aspects to the peace process.

"What I can say right now is that the peace process is at a critical stage and everybody understands that," he said, adding that Pakistan has tried to move the process forward with "sincerity".

"Of course other stakeholders have been a part of this, but Pakistan has played a key role."

He stated that Pakistan has played the part of a facilitator in the Afghan peace process. "It is still a facilitator of this peace process, we are not guarantors."

He said Afghan stakeholders now have to decide how to take the country forward. "We have always maintained that it should be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and that is what we have continued to strive for."

'India's investments seem to be sinking'

During the interview, Gen Iftikhar said that India's investments in Afghanistan seemed to be "sinking", adding that Indian propaganda against Pakistan and its role in the peace process was "not gaining traction".

He said that India's frustration with its investment in Afghanistan was evident. "If they had made these investments with sincerity, they would have no need to be frustrated. But because they were concentrating on using Afghanistan to harm Pakistan, they can see their entire investment sinking."

He said "spoilers" were trying to hold Pakistan responsible for the situation deteriorating in Afghanistan.

"But there is no truth is these allegations. The world is very well aware that Pakistan has made every effort to solve the Afghan issue, without violence and according to the wishes of the Afghan people."

He said India was not gaining any traction on the propaganda it was trying to perpetuate in this regard.

'No question nor requirement for US bases'

Asked about whether the United States should remove itself completely from the region, the DG ISPR said that there was only one requirement from the US which was a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"What that meant was their exit would have happened after a transition. But it happened a little quickly. I think that it has been said with a lot of clarity that there is no question nor requirement of bases for the US."

He said that the regional powers were well capable of resolving the issue.

"So you are saying the Americans are not needed, that they can leave?" asked a journalist.

"No, I don't think [they are needed]," he replied.

'Afghan army present on ground'

Commenting on Taliban officials saying the group had taken control of 85 per cent of territory in Afghanistan, the ISPR chief said that a lot of hard work and money had been putting into training the Afghan National Army (ANA).

"The ANA is of course present on ground [...] but their strategy seems to show that they are probably more concerned about the main cities."

He said that the Taliban's claims were an "exaggeration" and the number was likely closer to 45-50pc.

He reiterated that there was a force on ground in Afghanistan with its own capacity and potential. "But the reports that are being received right now show an increase in the speed of the Taliban."

He said that the US was in the process of withdrawing troops which would be completed by August 31. "At the end of the day, regional stakeholders will have to sit down with the Afghans to find a solution."

The ISPR chief said often Pakistan is blamed for the problems being faced in Afghanistan.

"The ANA has been equipped and has been trained [...] they have an air force and special forces. As a professional soldier I would like to say that they should have the capacity to withstand this onslaught and should be able to fight."

When a journalist pointed out that the perception in Afghanistan was that the Taliban would be coming into power, he said: "We need to understand that if that happens, that would be the decision of the Afghans. No one will dictate this decision from the outside."

Gen Iftikhar said the whole world was a witness to the sincerity with which Pakistan had pursued the Afghan peace process. "We have always said that we have no favourites in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have to decide which government they want and how to take the country forward."

He said Pakistan had certain "limits" in the help it could extend and certain decisions needed to be taken by the Afghans. "At the end of the day the Afghans will have to decide [...] and they have the capability and capacity to sit down and decide."

The DG ISPR said guns cannot decided the future of Afghanistan. "Guns could not decide in the past 20 years, so how could they decide now?"

When a journalist pointed out the recent onslaught by the Taliban, he replied: "That is just a phase. Eventually they will have to sit down and decide, otherwise this will convert into a civil war which will not benefit anyone."

Pak-Afghan border

Gen Iftikhar said the security and management of the Pak-Afghan border was beefed up some time back. "Right now, 90 per cent of the Pak-Afghan border has been fenced."

He said Pakistan was well aware of the spillover in case of a civil war in Afghanistan and measures had been taken.

"As far as Daesh and TTP presence is concerned, everyone knows they are in Afghanistan and they try to hurt Pakistan's interest. We have had casualties during fencing and we have raised this issue with the Afghan government several times."

However, he said, Pakistan was "very well prepared" and the current border security mechanism was "much better".

He said if there was an increase in violence, there would be a possible influx of refugees, adding that the interior ministry had planned for this outcome, which the interior minister would be able to explain better.

He said Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against anyone nor would allow "unwanted" people to enter the country.

"But border security is two-way traffic. The other side should have made arrangements like the ones we have made, which unfortunately they did not."

He refrained from commenting on the reasons for this but said that the Afghan side had not been kept "air tight".

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