ISLAMABAD: With tensions mounting between the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday stepped in to defuse tensions, according to a diplomatic source.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan held telephonic conversation with President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan today,” the Prime Minister Office said in a statement.
The call took place as Taliban officials and Tajik government exchanged barbs and reports emerged that Tajik forces held parades in regions bordering Afghanistan earlier in the week in a show of power and Taliban sent thousands of fighters to the border with Afghanistan’s northeastern neighbour.
Two leaders agree to coordinate efforts in support of Afghan stability
Tajikistan has taken a tough line on Taliban regime and has been critical of human rights violations committed by it, particularly in Panjshir province.
PM Khan had on his return from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit in Tajikistan on Sept 18 announced that he was persuading Taliban to form an inclusive government by including people from other ethnicities. He had on this occasion specially referred to his conversation with President Emomali on this issue.
“After mtgs in Dushanbe with leaders of Afghanistan’s neighbours & especially a lengthy discussion with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, I have initiated a dialogue with the Taliban for an inclusive Afghan govt to include Tajiks, Hazaras & Uzbeks,” Mr Khan had then tweeted.
Taliban, however, see Tajikistan’s criticism of them and the composition of their government as meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
Afghan deputy prime minister Abdul Salaam Hanafi had in a TV interview earlier in the week said: “We will not allow any neighbouring nation to interfere in the internal matters of Afghanistan.”
Ethnic Tajiks make up the second biggest ethnicity in Afghanistan. They are nearly 27 per cent of Afghanistan’s population. Most of the groups opposing Taliban have, meanwhile, taken up refuge in Tajikistan.
The PMO statement did not publicly state that Mr Khan had called for lowering of tensions between the two sides. It instead said that Mr Khan had during the conversation “underscored the urgent imperative to address the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people,” and importance of the role the international community can play in providing necessary humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
The PMO said the prime minister had also highlighted the immediate importance of economic engagement with Afghanistan to prevent an economic meltdown and to alleviate the suffering of common people. “The two leaders agreed to remain in close contact with a view to further coordinating their efforts in support of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” it further said.
PM Khan has emerged as the top advocate for international community’s engagement with the Taliban.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021