Pakistan welcomes Afghan cabinet expansion as ‘positive step’

Published September 24, 2021
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan/File
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday welcomed the expansion in the Afghan cabinet as a “positive step” and called for more such actions by the Taliban for stability in the war-ravaged country.

“We have taken note of the expansion in the interim cabinet with representation of different ethnic and political groups. This is a positive direction, and we hope they continue to take steps leading to lasting stability in the country,” Foreign Office spokesman Asim Iftikhar said at the weekly media briefing.

The Taliban had earlier in the week expanded the interim cabinet by naming a number of deputy ministers, some of whom belong to ethnic minorities like Hazaras. Most of the newly-inducted deputy ministers are, however, hardliners. Moreover, no woman was included in the cabinet yet again.

The international community has been unrelenting in its demand for an inclusive government in Afghanistan and has linked recognition of the new set-up to the fulfilment of the demand.

Calls for timely mobilisation of humanitarian assistance to avert crisis

International development assistance has been stopped in the absence of recognition for the Taliban government. Afghanistan has traditionally heavily relied on foreign assistance. Therefore, discontinuation of the assistance has raised fears of an economic collapse.

The FO spokesman recalled that Pakistan continued to urge the international community on the imperative of constructive engagement and timely mobilisation of humanitarian assistance to avert a humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.

“Ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan is a shared responsibility of the international community,” he underscored.

Mr Iftikhar said that Pakistan continued to engage with the interim authorities.

He also recalled that special representatives of China, Russia and Pakistan visited Kabul for meeting the Taliban leadership and other leading Afghan figures. The trip, he said, highlighted the importance of coordination among the regional stakeholders to promote the shared objectives of a peaceful, stable, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

He emphasised the need for continued coordination among the regional countries.

“It is all about coordination and consultation. The regional countries have shared concerns and interests vis-a-vis the developments in Afghanistan,” he stressed, adding that Pakistan would continue engagement and consultations with the international community, particularly the regional countries.

Commenting on the US silence on the Modi government’s atrocities in Occupied Kashmir and against religious minorities in India, the spokesman denounced it as Washington’s “double speak” and “double standards” on human rights.

“We have consistently maintained that human rights have to be respected and upheld universally, without any distinction or political motives,” Mr Iftikhar maintained.

President Biden had at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly said: “We all must call out and condemn the targeting and oppression of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities when it occurs in — whether it occurs in Xinjiang or northern Ethiopia or anywhere in the world.”

However, the US president avoided explicitly mentioning human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir that have been documented and reported by the United Nations and other international organisations. Neither did he speak about oppression of religious minorities in India.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021

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