• Defends action against Afghan refugees
• Rules out possibility of ‘recognising Israel’
• Asks PCB to take up fans’ visa issues with BCCI

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani confirmed the arrest of around 200 alleged fighters of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by the Afghan government.

The confirmation came after some media reports, citing unnamed Pakistani officials, said the Taliban regime in Kabul has captured suspected militants who had staged cross-border attacks in Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference on Sep 28 after his return from New York, the minister said the interim Afghan government has informed Pakistan about the arrests.

He said the government will not demand their handover if they are Afghan nationals, “but [we] want an action against them”.

The caretaker foreign minister expressed the hope that the Afghan government will respect their commitment made to the international community and not allow the use of its soil for terrorist attacks against any country.

It was the responsibility of the Afghan government to stop any such attacks and act against terrorists operating from its soil, he added.

‘No plan to recognise Israel’

The minister once again ruled out any plan to recognise Israel even if other Muslim countries do so.

He said Pakistan’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict “is and will remain” the same as in the past.

Pakistan wants a viable and independent Palestine, with pre-1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital, said Mr Jilani.

“May it be Palestine or Kashmir, Pakistan has always called for honouring people’s right to self-determination.”

‘Across-the-board operation’

The foreign minister said the ongoing operation against “illegal immigrants” in Pakistan “was not Afghan-specific”.

He said the federal cabinet had approved a policy to expel all illegal foreign nationals, and the decision “will be strictly implemented”.

He rebuffed the impression that the crackdown had been launched only against Afghan nationals and said action would be taken against all illegal immigrants, irrespective of their nationalities.

He, however, made it clear that registered Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan will not be affected.

Answering a question on speculations about the rollback of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the minister said there was “absolutely no question” of any such action.

“As a matter of fact, we have entered the second phase of CPEC, which will involve a lot of things, including the upgradation of railways, agriculture, technical and information technology cooperation.”

Dispelling the impression of any slowdown in the execution of CPEC projects, he added there was no need for any doubts over the project and the coming years “will only witness the CPEC progressing”.

India-Canada spat

Replying to a question regarding the Indian government’s involvement in the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada, FM Jilani said Pakistan has long been raising its voice against New Delhi’s role in assassination, espionage, and terrorist activities in South Asian countries and around the world.

He also called out New Delhi on the human rights violations in held Kashmir, saying peace in South Asia will remain obscure till the resolution of the Kashmir issue as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

In reply to another question, the minister said India could not deny visas to Pakistani cricket fans as the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) rules bind the host nation to allow spectators from countries part of the tournament.

He said the matter would be taken up with India through diplomatic channels and advised the Pakistan Cricket Board to “play an active role” by talking to the Board of Control for Cricket in India. “Pressure should be mounted on India for implementation of [ICC] rules.”

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023

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