ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan cannot be held “responsible” for the actions of the Taliban in the aftermath of US and its allies’ ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding that his government is not a spokesperson for the militant group.
“What the Taliban are doing or aren’t doing has nothing to do with us. We are not responsible, neither are we spokespersons for the Taliban,” he said in comments to Afghan media representatives that were aired on Thursday.
The premier’s remarks come a day after US journalist Judy Woodruff, during an interview, asked him about Pakistan alleged military, intelligence and financial support to the Afghan Taliban.
He made it clear that everybody in Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan because peace in the war-torn country was a pre-requisite for our economic strategies to succeed.
“If the civil war goes on between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it will certainly spill over into Pakistan. Already we have millions of refugees in Pakistan. And we cannot afford to host more refugees in our country.”
PM Imran today distanced Islamabad from the happenings in Kabul, saying: “All we want is peace in Afghanistan.”
He said that the Afghans had a choice to make: to either pursue the US-backed military solution or to pursue a political settlement where there is an inclusive government. “[The latter] is the only solution,” he said.
“There are three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, almost all of them are Pashtuns and most will have sympathies with the Taliban. How is Pakistan supposed to check who is going over there to fight when we have about 30,000 people crossing into Afghanistan everyday. How is Pakistan going to check that?”
“We have three million refugees in Pakistan […] how can Pakistan be held responsible? There are refugee camps with 100,000 and 500,000 people.”
He said it was not possible for Pakistan to sift through the refugee camps to find out who was pro-Taliban and who was not, adding that until recently there was no physical border between the two countries.
“The Durand Line was imaginary,” he said, referring to the 2640-kilometre-long border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said that Pakistan has completed 90 per cent of the border fencing.
“We are trying our best, but it is not possible to hold Pakistan responsible when you have over three million refugees here.”
He said that it was not in Pakistan’s interest to have civil war break out in Afghanistan. “What interest could Pakistan have in backing someone to take over Afghanistan?”
What is clear is that no one party will be able to take over Afghanistan, he said.
PM Imran said that in the 90s Pakistan had pursued the policy of ‘strategic depth’ as it was wary of Indian influence in Afghanistan.
“In those days we did try to have favourites. Now, and especially in my government, we believe that Afghanistan can never be controlled from the outside.”
So Pakistan will have good relations with whoever the Afghans choose, he said.
He said that recent statements from Afghan leaders blaming Pakistan for Afghan crisis is unfortunate because it was Pakistan which strived hard to convince Taliban first for talks with United States and then with Afghan government.
Mr. Khan dispelled the impression that the government in Pakistan was controlled by the military, said this was the impression that India had created about Pakistan.
The Prime Minister said unfortunately there was a misconception in Afghanistan, which was based on Indian propaganda, that Pakistan was controlled by military institutions.
He categorically stated, “Pakistan Army fully supports the government. The army has stood by each and every foreign policy step I have taken so far.”
The prime minister made it clear that what decisions he had taken in the domain of foreign policy so far were part of his party’s (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf) 25-year-old manifesto, and were not dictated by the military ‘establishment’.
Criticising the American policy in Afghanistan, PM Imran said that the country ought to have held negotiations with the Taliban when they had their troops stationed in Afghanistan. “Now how can they (the Americans) talk to them from the position of strength when only few thousands of their soldiers are left in Afghanistan?” he questioned.
The prime minister referring to the Kashmir dispute said that first India had denied the right of self-determination to the Kashmiris by not implementing the UN resolutions, and the last nail it hammered into the coffin was on August 5, 2019 it robbed Kashmir of the special status it had granted to it under Article-370 of its constitution.
He told the Afghan journalists that Hindu fanatics were committing human rights violations in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nose at will.
He said that Pakistan has always desired for peace with India, but it was India which did not want peace because it was at present under the influence of RSS ideology.
Commenting on the recent incident involving the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad, the premier said that authorities had charted out the exact path taken by Silsila Alikhil. He said that taxi drivers were traced and interrogated.
“Unfortunately, what the ambassador’s daughter is saying and what the cameras show do not add up. She says she was put in a taxi, taken away and beaten up. But there is a picture of that taxi and she is sitting there and she is fine.”
He said that the police had pulled all the records and there was a “discrepancy”. He said that since the ambassador’s daughter had gone back to Afghanistan there was no way to confirm what had happened. He said that the probe team from Afghanistan would be handed over all the information so that they could question the daughter when they go back.