Kabul rebuffed for blaming Islamabad

-Showing disappointment PM tells Ghani unfair to blame Pakistan for Afghan situation
-Pakistan, Afghanistan hold delegation-level talks in Tashkent
-EU’s support on rehabilitation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan sought
-FO denies allegation of threatening Afghan Forces against dislodging Taliban from border
-Pakistan, US, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan create platform for regional cooperation

DM Monitoring

TASHKENT: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday hit back at Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s claims about Pakistan’s “negative role” in the Afghan peace process, adding that it was “unfair” to blame the country for the situation in Afghanistan.
The prime minister made the comments at the international conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” during his two-day visit to Uzbekistan.
The Afghan president was also present at the conference. PM Imran’s remarks came shortly before the two leaders were scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the conference. “President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years.
The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict,” the premier said as he stopped reading from his written speech.
He also said that Taliban was no longer willing to compromise after the United States gave a date for the withdrawal of troops. “When there were 150,000 Nato troops that was the time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given why would they listen to us when they are sensing victory” the prime minister questioned. The premier said that Pakistan’s economy was finally recovering after going through a difficult phase. “I repeat, the last thing we want is turbulence in Afghanistan.”
PM Imran stated that no country has tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table for dialogue. “We have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. “To blame Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan is extremely unfair.”
He said that he would not have visited Kabul in November last year if Pakistan was not interested in peace. “The whole idea was to look upon Pakistan as a partner in peace. I feel disappointed that we have been blamed for what is going on in Afghanistan”.
He said that the current situation in Afghanistan was a result of over two decades of conflict and the US seeking a military solution.
He said that he had a conversation with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about how all the neighbours in the region can help the Afghan peace process. “It is in all of our interests.” He said that there were already three million refugees in Afghanistan.
“We are petrified that there will be another influx of refugees and we do not have the capacity or the economic strength to bear it. So I can assure you again, if any country is trying its best, it is Pakistan.”
Later in the day Pakistan and Afghanistan held the delegation-level talks between their governments, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The talks were held on the sidelines of ‘Central and South Asia 2021: Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities’ conference, held in the capital of Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday called upon the European Union (EU) and international community to support Pakistan in the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees.
The prime minister stated this in a meeting with Josep Borrell, European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, on the sidelines of Tashkent conference held on regional connectivity. The Prime Minister highlighted Pakistan’s vital contributions to the Afghan peace process and intra-Afghan negotiations.
He stressed that the conflict could only be settled through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process leading to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement.
The prime minister emphasized the importance of continued engagement of international community following the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan to facilitate lasting peace.
He expressed concern over the worsening situation in Afghanistan and its negative impact on the security situation of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and the US have formed a new diplomatic platform to support peace and stability in Afghanistan and foster regional trade and business ties, according to a Foreign Office (FO) statement. “Representatives of the United States, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity.
“The parties consider long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan critical to regional connectivity and agree that peace and regional connectivity are mutually reinforcing,” said the FO statement. It added that the countries had recognised the “historic opportunity to open flourishing international trade routes” and intended to cooperate on expanding trade, building transit links and strengthening business-to-business ties.
“The parties agreed to meet in the coming months to determine the modalities of this cooperation with mutual consensus,” said the FO statement. The US State Department also issued the same statement and said on Twitter that it looked forward to partnering with the three countries for regional cooperation, terming it a “cornerstone to a sustained peace”.
The development came during the international conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” in Uzbekistan. The conference had originally been intended to discuss building better transportation links across Central and South Asia, but that agenda was trumped by the Taliban advances. Participants gathering in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent traded stinging criticisms and engaged in finger-pointing over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has denied allegations by Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh that the Pakistan Air Force had issued an official warning to Afghan security forces to repel any action by the latter to dislodge the Taliban from the border crossing of Spin Boldak.
Such allegations “undermine Pakistan’s sincere efforts to play its part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution” for restoring peace in the war-torn country, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO) on Friday.
Saleh had made the allegations in a tweet on Thursday, also claiming that the Pakistan Air Force was providing air support to the Taliban in certain areas.
“Breaking: Pakistan air force has issued official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force. Pak air force is now providing close air support to Taliban in certain areas,” he had tweeted.
In a separate tweet, he had added: “If anyone doubts my tweet on Pak Air Force & Pak Army warning to d Afg side not to retake Spin Boldak I am ready to share evidence through DM.”
The FO denied the allegations on Friday, stating that the Afghan side had conveyed to Pakistan its intention of carrying out an air operation inside its territory adjacent to the Chaman border. “Pakistan responded positively to the Afghan Government’s right to act in its territory. In spite of very close border operations normally not acceded to by internationally accepted norms/ standards/ procedures, Pakistan took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population.”
Pakistan acknowledged the Afghan government’s “rights to undertake actions on its sovereign territory,” it added. In the statement, the FO recalled that recently, Pakistan had rescued 40 Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel, who had fled into the country. They were returned to the Afghan government with “respect and dignity, with a declared offer to ANDSF to provide all logistical support as requested,” the FO said.
It added that Pakistan remained “committed to peace in Afghanistan and shall continue to endeavour towards this end irrespective of the detractors.” “It is, however, important that at this critical juncture, all energies are focused on achieving an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan,” the FO stressed.
Meanwhile, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed Friday rejected the allegations of infiltration levelled by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The top spymaster was talking to reporters in Tashkent where he was attending the Central and South Asia Conference 2021 along with Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior government functionaries.
During his address, the Afghan president had levelled unfounded allegations against Pakistan, saying that 10,000 fighters had crossed over into Afghanistan from the country. “If talks fail, we will fight the Taliban,” said Ghani. “This is the last chance for peace,” he had said.
DG ISI categorically stated that these allegations against Pakistan are not true, in fact infiltration is being done from Afghanistan.
“We want peace in the neighbouring country as a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and other countries,” DG ISI said. He said that Pakistan is not supporting any faction in Afghanistan. We are interested in a negotiated settlement among all the Afghan groups.