In dealing with Taliban be persuasive but patient: Qureshi

Published September 26, 2021
NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.—APP
NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.—APP

UNITED NATIONS: Continue economic and political engagement with Afghanistan, resolve the Kashmir issue for peace and stability in the region — these were the two main messages that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi shared with the international community during his engagements at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

He reiterated this message in his meeting with Secretary General Antonio Guterres as well, telling the UN chief that “urgent action” was needed to avoid a humanitarian crisis in war-torn Afghanistan.

In this meeting, Mr Qureshi also called for “continued political and economic engagement with Afghanistan to end [the] decades-long conflict,” said an official statement. He shared with Mr Guterres a dossier on the “deteriorating human rights” situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which contained “evidence of gross, systematic, and widespread human rights violations, war crimes, crime against humanity and genocide being perpetrated by Indian occupation forces” in the valley.

And as Pakistan always does, the foreign minister also expressed the hope that the UN would play its role in ensuring that the people of occupied Kashmir were able to “exercise their inalienable right to self-determination as ensh­rined in the relevant UN resolutions”.

Says ‘urgent action’ needed to avoid humanitarian crisis in war-torn Afghanistan

The effort by some nations to add new permanent members to the UN Security Council also figured prominently in Mr Qureshi’s meeting with the UN chief. He reiterated Pakistan’s stance on reforms by consensus and that member states must be allowed the necessary time and space to evolve a solution acceptable to all.

The rising tide of Islamophobia in the West, ending vaccine inequity, and ensuring adequate financing for developing countries to respond to the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis were other issues that the foreign minister highlighted in his talks with the UN chief and in other meetings during the 76th UNGA.

But the issue that dominated Mr Qureshi’s engagements at the UN was Afghanistan. The emphasis was so obvious that some US media outlets accused Pakistan of “being a spokesperson” for Kabul’s new rulers.

The foreign minister denied the charge, saying that Pakistan has to watch what happens in Afghanistan, not just because “Afghanistan is our immediate neighbour” but also because “whatever happens there has a direct impact on us”.

Later, while wrapping up his week-long visit at a news briefing with the Pakistani media, Mr Qureshi said he was satisfied with the talks he had with world leaders and felt that it led to a better understanding of Pakistan’s viewpoint on various issues.

He recalled his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week, saying: “He listened to all the things I said with great attention, noted them down and gave me the full opportunity to present my stance.” The meeting stretched beyond the time allocated, he added.

So far, Mr Blinken and his office have made only brief remarks, stating that the Qureshi-Blinken talks focused on Afghanistan and bilateral issues.

Although Mr Qureshi said he was satisfied with the meeting, he did not say if it would lead to a major breakthrough in the US-Pakistan ties. “As for any breakthroughs, there are several things [such as] what are their overall wishes, goals and [what are] Pakistan’s needs. So, we should look at all of that and move forward in a realistic manner.

Mr Qureshi also warned the media, and the people, not to raise expectations yet. “I don’t think we should associate ourselves with unrealistic wishes,” he said, “But they also realised, and are cognizant, of Pakistan’s importance and need. They will realise that Pakistan can better serve as an ally in the current situation,” he said.

The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to remove misunderstandings and make Pakistan’s role clear, and not to seek economic assistance. “More interactions can be expected in the future,” he added.

Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan also wanted an inclusive government in Afghanistan but knew that the proposed change required a patient approach. He said that in his meeting with Mr Blinken he advised Washington to engage, be persuasive and show patience in dealing with the Taliban.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2021

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