SCO leaders caution against abandoning Afghanistan

Published September 17, 2021
DUSHANBE (Tajikistan): Prime Minister Imran Khan exchanging views with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting on Thursday.—PPI
DUSHANBE (Tajikistan): Prime Minister Imran Khan exchanging views with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting on Thursday.—PPI

• Imran meets presidents of Iran, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan in Dushanbe
• PM warns failure to stabilise Afghanistan may destabilise region
• MoUs for joint ventures signed with Tajikistan at business forum

ISLAMABAD: Several regional leaders participating in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on Thursday underscored the need for an inclusive government in Afghanistan and concurred with Pakistan that the war-ravaged country should not be abandoned after the Taliban takeover.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on a two-day visit for attending the SCO summit, met the presidents of Belarus, Uzbekistan, Iran and Kazakhstan on the sidelines of the event on the first day of his trip.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a recorded video statement said the focus of discussions between Mr Khan and the regional leaders was on the situation in Afghanistan.

The information minister is accompanying the prime minister on the visit.

“All regional leaders agree that if a stable government in Afghanistan is to be achieved then the country should not be abandoned. It should be rather engaged. Afghans should not be left alone at this critical juncture. Efforts should continue for an inclusive government there,” Mr Chaudhry said.

“There is a consensus on these issues,” he emphasised, adding that all neighbours of Afghanistan were striving for stability there.

Mr Khan warned the leaders he met on the sidelines of the summit that a failure to stabilise Afghanistan could destabilise the entire neighbourhood.

The plenary session of the SCO summit will be held on Friday (today). A key focus of the summit would be the evolving situation in Afghanistan. The participating leaders are likely to demand formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, ask Taliban to prevent their country from becoming a terrorist safe haven, and discuss ways for tackling a possible humanitarian crisis there.

While there is a realisation among the SCO leaders that Afghanistan should not be abandoned, Taliban government is unlikely to win the region’s recognition during the summit.

Afghanistan has an observer status at the SCO, but it has not been invited for the summit because the members of the bloc do not recognise its new government.

Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov, in an interview with TASS, had explained: “At this stage, all member states have an understanding that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognised government in Afghanistan.”

Imran meets leaders

PM Khan met with Iran’s President Dr Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since Mr Raisi assumed office last month after his success in presidential elections.

The PM Office said the prime minister appreciated Iran’s support for Pakistan’s initiative on engagement with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries for a coordinated approach.

Mr Raisi, according to a statement by the Iranian presidency, said: “We should try to help Afghanistan form a government that includes all groups based on the will of the people of the country. The key to solving Afghanistan’s problems is to form an inclusive government and prevent foreign interference in the country’s affairs.”

Prime Minister Khan in his meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko emphasised that the international community must stand by the Afghan people, help avert a humanitarian crisis, and take steps to stabilise the economy.

Mr Khan reiterated Pakistan’s full support for efforts for stabilisation of Afghanistan.

In his meeting with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, PM Khan stressed that sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan would contribute to regional peace, connectivity and progress.

PM Khan also met with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Uzbekistan’s presidential press service said the two leaders discussed “the situation in the region.”

Business forum

Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum was also organised in Dushanbe.

As many as 67 companies from Pakistan and more than 150 Tajik companies participated in the forum, the PMO said. A large number of business-to-business meetings were held among companies representing textiles, pharmaceuticals, leather, fruits and vegetables, processed food, transport and logistics, construction, education, tourism and mining.

Fifteen memorandums of understanding were signed for joint ventures and many orders were booked by Pakistani exporters.

Prime Minister Khan, speaking on this occasion, invited Tajik businessmen to invest in Pakistan.

He hoped for early materialisation of CASA-1000 project.

Mr Khan said a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was extremely important for regional connectivity and Pakistan would work together with Tajikistan and other neighbouring countries of Afghanistan to support the process of peace, progress and prosperity.

Earlier, Prime Minister Khan was received by his Tajik counterpart Kokhir Rasulzoda at the Dushanbe airport.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021

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