ISLAMABAD: As Afghanistan stood at a crossroads after suffering for decades, Pakistan reiterated its call for the international community to rise from the geo-politics to make efforts for helping Afghanistan avert economic and humanitarian disaster as well as for promoting intra-Afghan reconciliation.
“Let us rise above geo-politics and try to mitigate the pain and suffering of Afghanistan. Pakistan urges all responsible actors to learn from past mistakes and let us not repeat them. We must not be prescriptive in our approach,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in an op-ed published in Khaleej Times Monday.
He viewed that Afghanistan stood at a historic cross-roads, where it could finally end the cycles of conflict and instability, or descend into state failure which would bring untold misery to its people and affect the region.
After Afghanistan itself, Pakistan has suffered the most from the Afghan imbroglio, he remarked. He said Pakistan had endured 80,000 casualties and incurred economic losses to the tune of over $150 billion with the country still continuing to host approximately four million refugees.
“That is akin to adding the population of a small country to that of Pakistan. But we remained steadfast. We never had the option or inclination, simply, to walk away. As an immediate neighbour we do not have the luxury to disengage,” the foreign minister added.
He said Pakistan had kept its embassy and consulates in Afghanistan open and the national airline, PIA, had braved all hazards to evacuate personnel of diplomatic missions, international organisations, INGOs and media entities.
While Pakistan is committed to doing what it can, it would be essential to have a realistic perspective as the situation evolves. Qureshi said the Afghan crisis, its worsening and continuation were not of Pakistan’s making but the country tried to help bring about a negotiated end to the “forever war”.
The foreign minister urged the “spoilers” to desist from stultifying the process of Afghan stabilisation. Afghanistan is a deeply wounded entity that needs healing not cynical manipulation. “Stop misleading the world by misusing cyber platforms and spreading baseless allegations to create wedge between people,” he remarked.
Qureshi urged the international community to stay the course and help Afghanistan avert an economic and humanitarian disaster. He called for not repeating the precipitous actions of the past which deepened the fissures in the Afghan society that were exacerbated by military action, mismanagement, corruption and squandering of fantastical sums of western tax payers’ money.
He asked the new dispensation in Afghanistan to try to bring about genuine reconciliation and create a polity where no one felt imperiled due to ethnicity or gender.
Qureshi said as a responsible player, Pakistan not only facilitated the peace process but was also striving for a regional approach on Afghanistan. He said Pakistan had also reached out to the Western countries as well as all Afghan political factions to work together for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan
“Pakistan calls upon every international player to heed its call for genuine efforts to promote intra-Afghan reconciliation. Afghanistan has had enough of conflict. Pakistan’s sufferings have been second only to those of Afghanistan,” he said.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for a transformed Pakistan was centered on economic security and that Pakistan had made a policy shift from geopolitics to geo-economics.
He said Pakistan desired a peaceful and prosperous region adding to international security and stability. This would also help in the realisation of our mutual connectivity agenda leading to regional economic integration, he added.
Providing generous support to Afghanistan would help it make a genuine transition from a fractured and mal-administered entity to a responsible member of the international community.
He viewed that helping Afghanistan would help prevent an economic meltdown and a refugee crisis. “Financial measures at this stage would add to the suffering of common Afghans. We should extend our hands to lift them up, not to choke them,” the foreign minister remarked.
He said the mind-numbing speed with which the Ashraf Ghani-led house of cards collapsed has spawned many a hypothesis; there, also, was angst and bewilderment as well as sense of loss due to wasted investment of a regional actor that wanted to use Afghanistan as an anti-Pakistan Trojan Horse.
“Let us rise above geo-politics and try to mitigate the pain and suffering of Afghanistan. Pakistan urges all responsible actors to learn from past mistakes and let us not repeat them. We must not be prescriptive in our approach” Foreign Minister Qureshi said.
He called for seizing the opportunity to usher in an era where a stable and peaceful Afghanistan helped the world unlock the true potential of the region.