‘Pakistan keeps close eye on Afghan crisis’

-Info Minister says if Afghanistan descends into war, govt won’t let fallout affect Pakistan
-Reiterates Pakistan’s land not being used against Afghanistan
-Sindh Minister says Karachi can’t bear burden of additional Afghan refugees

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said Monday that the government is keeping a close eye on developments taking place in Afghanistan and will not let these affect Pakistan.
The information minister said every effort is being made to move forward with a peaceful and consensus-driven government in Kabul.
The statement from the federal minister came amid a worsening situation in the neighbouring country, with the national leadership calling on world powers to settle the issue through dialogue.
With its eyes on Kabul, the Taliban claim to have captured 85% of the Afghan territory.“But even if it does not happen, its effects will not be allowed to influence Pakistan and our Afghan policy is in Pakistan’s interest,” Fawad stated.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan has stated in unequivocal terms that Pakistan would be part of peace efforts in Afghanistan, but not war. The minister said Pakistan’s land was not being used against Afghanistan and hopefully, Afghanistan’s land will also not be used against Pakistan.
He said the country’s political and parliamentary leadership has developed a consensus on the principle of non-interference.
The information minister’s remarks are the latest in a string of statements by Pakistani authorities regarding growing concerns over rising violence in Afghanistan and its expected fallout in Pakistan, with the US drawdown in the war-torn country now in its final stages. On Friday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had warned while briefing the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs that the situation was turning volatile in Afghanistan.
Yusuf had termed the situation in the neighbourng country “extremely bad and out of Pakistan’s control”. He had warned of an impending risk of an attack by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants, who, he had said, could enter Pakistan disguised as refugees. Qureshi had expressed worry that in case of a civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistan would not be able to handle the influx of refugees.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had called newly elected Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Raisi and expressed concern over the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, saying the latest developments could lead to serious repercussions for both Pakistan and Iran. The prime minister had underscored the significance of a negotiated political solution to the conflict in the neighbouring country, and had said latest developments in Afghanistan could result in an influx of refugees towards the bordering areas of Pakistan and Iran.
Meanwhile, Sindh Information Minister, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, said on Monday that Afghan refugees could enter Pakistan if civil war breaks out in the neighbouring country. He said this during a meeting with European Union (EU) Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara, who called on him here in Karachi.
The meeting discussed bilateral relations, forced labor of children including trade, labor laws, political situation, Afghanistan security situation, and ongoing development projects in Sindh by the EU.
Speaking on the occasion, Nasir Shah said that in case of a civil war in Afghanistan, Sindh including Karachi would not be able to handle the influx of refugees.
“Karachi is already hosting millions of Afghan refugees and does not have the capacity to bear the burden of additional Afghan refugees,” he added. The minister has asked the federal government to settle the Afghan refugees in special camps along the border with Afghanistan.
Earlier, the Sindh government had demanded of the federal government to establish camps for them in Punjab, KP and erstwhile FATA. Sindh Minister for Agriculture, Ismail Rahu in his statement said Afghan nationals can migrate to Pakistan after a possible civil war in the country as the departure of US forces has begun.
The border with Afghanistan should be sealed to stop the influx of Afghan refugees and camps should be established in Punjab, KP and the erstwhile FATA. “Sindh especially Karachi is already facing population problems and cannot host more refugees as they also pose law and order threat.”