Islamabad urges Afghan parties to reach settlement

Published August 17, 2021
In this file photo, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf speaks to journalists about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, in Islamabad. — AFP/File
In this file photo, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf speaks to journalists about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, in Islamabad. — AFP/File

• Moeed says Pakistan to stand by world community
• NSC endorses Biden’s decision, calls it logical end to conflict
• Opposition seeks briefing to parliament

ISLAMABAD: Amid reports of the Taliban having taken complete control of Afghanistan, Pakistan on Monday urged all stakeholders in the neigbouring country to reach a political settlement, respect rule of law, protect human rights and ensure that Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organisation or group against any country.

While describing it as ‘the way forward’, participants in the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting reaffirmed that Pakistan would “continue to work with the international community and all Afghan stakeholders to facilitate an inclusive political settlement” for the representation of all Afghan ethnic groups.

The NSC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the civil and the military leadership, also endorsed US President Joe Biden administration’s decision made during the Donald Trump presidency regarding withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, calling it a “logical conclusion to the conflict”.

The meeting also discussed the measures in place if the situation sparked another influx of Afghan refugees to Pakistan.

An official press release issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) after the meeting said the NSC emphasised that Pakistan remained committed to an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. The PMO stated the meeting, which was attended by chiefs of the armed forces as well as senior cabinet members, also decided that the principle of “non-interference in Afghanistan” must be adhered to.

When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that the meeting minutely reviewed the Afghan situation and called all stakeholders in the neighbouring country for political settlement of the conflict.

The participants in the meeting were apprised of the latest developments in Afghanistan and their possible impact on Pakistan as well as the South Asian region, according to the PMO statement.

So far, “major violence had been averted” during the Taliban’s reclaiming of Kabul, the NSC observed, while asking all parties in Afghanistan to “respect the rule of law, protect fundamental human rights of all Afghans, and ensure that Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organisation/group against any country”.

The NSC emphasized that the international community “must recognise the sacrifices made by Pakistan” over the last four decades, reminding the world that Pakistan being a victim of the Afghan conflict wanted peace and stability in the region. The security committee asserted that there was never a military solution to the Afghanistan conflict. “The ideal time to end the conflict through negotiations might have been when the US/Nato troops were at maximum military strength in Afghanistan. Continuation of foreign military presence for a longer duration now would not have yielded a different outcome,” it observed.

“Therefore, US President Joe Biden administration’s endorsement of the decision made during the Donald Trump presidency — to withdraw all United States troops from Afghanistan — was indeed a logical conclusion to this conflict,” the meeting said.

“It is now time for the international community to work together to ensure an inclusive political settlement for long-term peace, security and development of Afghanistan [and] the region,” it added.

While lauding the ongoing efforts of the Pakistani embassy in Kabul, PM Khan issued order for the repatriation of Pakistani citizens, diplomats, journalists and staff of international organisations operating in Afghanistan.

A day earlier, the Foreign Office said Pakistan was closely following the situation in Afghanistan and would continue to support efforts for political settlement.

“We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal crisis,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a series of tweets. He said the Pakistan embassy in Kabul was extending required assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of PIA flights.

According to him, a special inter-ministerial cell had been established in the Ministry of Interior to facilitate visa and arrival matters for personnel of foreign envoys and officials of United Nations agencies, international organisations, media and others.

Pakistan stands by decision of world community

Also, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and National Security Adviser Moeed Yousuf, Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq and Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan held an informal chat with some journalists and elaborated Pakistan’s plans regarding fast developing changes in the neighbouring country. They said Pakistan would not take unilateral decision regarding Afghanistan and its future government as Islamabad would stand by the decision of the world community.

Mr Chaudhry was of the opinion that the Taliban could not run the country alone as Ashraf Ghani could not rather they (Taliban) have to take all stakeholders on board. “Our stance on Afghanistan is clear but nothing is certain there due to fast changing developments. We have asked Ghani that he could not run the government alone and we again urged Taliban the same,” the minister added.

Mr Yousuf said Pakistan was standing with the world community and it would stand by whatever decision the international community would take. “We do not want instability in our neighbour. Whatever had happened in Afghanistan is open to all,” he added.

The NSA said Pakistan was facilitating safe exit of those seeking to leave the war-torn Afghanistan. So far more than 300 visas had been issued to the journalists community, he added. “Committee to Protect Journalists have expressed gratitude to Pakistan for facilitating safe exit of journalists from Afghanistan,” he said. The government also formed a crisis cell so that all relevant departments could sit under a roof to facilitate visa process, he said.

Mr Sadiq said Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul was open for all to help facilitate people for leaving the neighbouring country. “This time it will not happen that we will recognise Taliban’s government unilaterally but we will stand by the decision to be taken by the world community about it,” he added.

Ambassador Khan said some embassies had contacted Pakistan’s embassy for exit of their staff and foreign nationals.

He said the embassy was in making a close coordination with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) but due to tense situation three flights that were to be flown from Kabul, could not take off, causing panic and rush of passengers. “The airport is still under Nato force’s control, but as the airport clears flights will resume their operations. Otherwise people can be taken to Pakistan through Torkham border by road,” he added. At the moment, he said, about 40 to 50 families were present in the embassy and more than 200 people were awaiting fights.

Opposition seeks policy statement

The two major opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party demanded that the government brief the parliament on the current situation in Afghanistan, come up with a policy statement and develop a national consensus to deal with possible consequences the nation can face after the establishment of Taliban rule in the war-torn country.

The PPP convened an extraordinary meeting of its Central Executive Committee (CEC) at Bilawal House in Karachi on Monday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and formulate the party’s point of view on it.

PML-N senior vice president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in-house consultations were under way within the party over the events unfolding in Afghanistan, but the government should brief the opposition and parliamentarians on its policy on the Afghan situation.

He was of the opinion that a mere debate in the joint sitting of parliament would be of no use. He said the focus of the debate should be the development of a national consensus. However, he said, the debate would only be meaningful if it was held after the issuance of a policy statement from the government.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2021

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