ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday decried US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement about Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, saying it’s not in accordance with the cooperation between the two countries.

Foreign Office spokesman Asim Iftikhar, at the weekly media briefing, said: “We have noted that the comments were not in line with the close cooperation between Pakistan and the United States.”

Testifying before Cong­ress, Secretary Blinken had said that US would review its ties with Pakistan to examine the role it had played over the past 20 years and see what it can do in future.

Further accusing Pakistan, he had on that occasion said: “It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, and it’s one that’s involved harbouring members of the Taliban…”

Mr Iftikhar said Mr Blinken’s comments were “surprising”.

He recalled Pakistan’s contribution in the Afghan peace process, which ultimately did not succeed, and the facilitation extended in evacuation of foreign nationals from Afghanistan after the fall of the Ghani government.

He also reminded about the counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.

“Let me further recall that Pakistan had played a critical role in helping the United States degrade Al Qaeda’s core leadership in Afghanistan, which was the international coalition’s core objective,” he said.

The spokesman said that the US State Department spokesperson had in his briefing of 15 September 2021 acknowledged the continued support from Pakistan for an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan.

Mr Iftikhar said that it had been Pakistan’s consistent position that there could be no military solution of the protracted conflict and the only way to sustainable peace in Afghanistan was through a political settlement. This position, he said, is now shared by US as well.

“I would add that achieving an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan that represents Afghanistan’s diversity and reflects the gains made by the country remains a shared objective for Pakistan and the United States,” the spokesman noted.

“We look forward to building on this convergence while also strengthening other aspects of a broad-based and constructive relationship,” he added.

Mr Blinken had also asked Pakistan not to give legitimacy to the Taliban regime.

In reply to a question about pressure for not recognising the Taliban government, the spokesman said: “There is no pressure, and we do not take any pressure. We will take independent decisions in line with our interests.”

In his opening statement, Mr Iftikhar emphasised “sustained” and “constructive” engagement of the international community with Afghanistan for avoiding a humanitarian crisis and ensuring durable peace and stability there.

“Well-being of the Afghan people should be the foremost priority,” he maintained, adding that Pakistan remained actively engaged with the international community and continues to consult allies.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021

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