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Blame game must end, FM tells Kabul

-Says Pakistan will not take responsibility if blamed for deteriorating Afghan peace
-Terms ‘strategic depth’ as obsolete as Pakistan committed to APPAPS
-Stresses on negotiations to resolve Afghan issue
-Urges Kabul to limit internal mistrust, forget the past and go forward
-Addresses Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue

By Our Diplomatic Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday expressed concern over recent attacks in Afghanistan and said that reduction in violence is imperative to move forward.
Speaking at the inaugural session of Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue in Islamabad, he said the warring sides, including the Afghan government and Taliban, will have to demonstrate flexibility to reach a settlement. Mr. Qureshi said that Pakistan would not take responsibility if it was blamed for any deterioration in the Afghan peace process.
“I wish them luck and a good visit but let me spell it down in advance. If the objective of going to Washington is starting a new blame game and holding Pakistan responsible for all the ills in Afghanistan and the lack of progress in the peace process, then it will not help.
“It is a shared responsibility and nobody is going to buy it anymore that if things go wrong then Pakistan is responsible. We will not take responsibility,” said the foreign minister, adding that Pakistan was “honest and sincere” in building a peace process in Afghanistan.
“We have been accused enough.”
He said it was up to Afghans to decide the way forward for the country and find people who could do that. “Afghanistan needs leadership that can negotiate a successful outcome and that can transit this country into peace and is not worried about perpetuation and hanging on to power.”
Qureshi stressed that Pakistan wanted to partner with Afghanistan, the region and the US to counter terrorism, adding that Pakistan had suffered and “paid a price” in lives lost, soldiers martyred, mosques bombed and loss to the economy.
The foreign minister said Pakistan wanted to resolve the mutual issues with Afghanistan under the mechanism of APPAPS (Afghanistan-Pakistan Plan of Action for Peace and Solidarity).”I as the elected representative of Pakistan, do not want to see ‘Talibanisation’ of Pakistan. How can I be more clear than that?,” said FM Qureshi, adding that his vision of the country was based on the values advocated by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Pakistan had taken a “very clear decision” to not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan he said, adding, the concept of “strategic depth” was obsolete and Pakistan was instead committed to moving together with Afghanistan to attain the goals of peace and economic prosperity.
“We have no favourites, There is a general buzz that we are advocates of the Taliban. I am not and I don’t represent them, I represent Pakistan. Taliban are Afghans,” the foreign minister emphasised. He said multiple Afghan leaders from “every ethnic group” had been invited to Islamabad to send the clear message that Pakistan wanted to engage with all ethnic communities and leaders “who matter and are important for peace and reconciliation”.
“That is why we have been inviting you and will continue to invite your leadership to achieve our common objective of peace and stability.”
FM Qureshi stressed that “time is running out” and there was a need to find leadership which enjoyed the confidence of Afghans. He urged the Afghan leadership and the Taliban to show flexibility, adding that the region would go nowhere if they continued to stick to their positions.
Qureshi said Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan had been advocating for years that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict. He recalled that the prime minister had been called ‘Taliban Khan’ by many for his stance but the world was now recognising what he said and agreeing with him that the only solution was a negotiated settlement.
He said there was a “new international convergence” on the stance since the world had seen in 20 years that the most “sophisticated armies, weaponry and technology” could not bring peace in Afghanistan.
Regarding vindication of Pakistan’s stance, Qureshi said he had seen a “very positive change” during his interactions with US legislators last month. “Today in the US we are looking at Pakistan not as part of the problem but part of the solution,” he said, quoting US Senator Lindsey Graham, hailing it as a “paradigm shift in [US] approach”.
The foreign minister reiterated that a “blame game” between Afghanistan and Pakistan would not achieve anything and called for it to stop. He said among some of the impediments he saw were a lack of intra-Afghan trust and a “trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan”. Qureshi stressed there was a need to “forget the past and look at the future”. He said Pakistan was committed to building bridges instead of “sowing seeds of dissent”.
“Trust us when we say that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest.” He said he was concerned and disappointed by statements from the Afghan vice president and national security adviser, adding that statements which vitiated the climate between the two countries went against the spirit of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.

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