Pakistan maintains ‘communication channel’ with Afghanistan: FO

Staff Reports 

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) on Friday said that Pakistan had maintained a “channel of communication” with Afghanistan despite “misgivings” in the bilateral relationship.

“Pakistan’s foreign policy has been consistent that we want to have friendly ties with our neighbour Afghanistan. Pakistan has done everything possible to maintain positive relations with Afghanistan and in that context, we have remained engaged with Afghanistan on all issues of concern,” said FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch in Islamabad at the weekly briefing.

“Despite our misgivings, and despite our serious concerns, Pakistan has maintained a channel of communication with Afghanistan,” she said amid ongoing tensions between the two countries.

The two countries have been at loggerheads with each other over the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the relationship saw further dip after Pakistan decided to deport all Afghans residing in the country illegally.

A number of Afghan Taliban leaders in recent weeks issued strong statements, criticising Islamabad’s policy. At the same time, the Afghan Taliban government rejected Pakistan’s allegation of harbouring the TTP.

Earlier this week, in an unusual move, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar addressed a news conference and virtually issued a charge sheet against the Taliban regime.

The premier said that despite repeated demands, the Afghan Taliban failed to rein in the TTP. He said that since the Afghan Taliban’s return, there had been a 60 per cent increase in terrorist attacks while the number of suicide attacks went up by 500 per cent.

PM Kakar said that he was compelled to hold a news conference since the Afghan Taliban leaders continued to hurl allegations against Pakistan.

The relationship between the two countries has worsened to the extent that Pakistan has decided not to extend any support to the Taliban regime at international forums.

The foreign office spokesperson, when asked, did not directly comment on the apparent shift in Pakistan’s policy but listed the challenges in the relationship.

“There is, of course, a challenge that we face and the challenge is that the Afghan territory is being used by terrorist entities against Pakistan,” she said.

“So, our foreign policy is a reflection of our security concerns that Pakistan has and we have expressed those concerns very clearly to the Afghan authorities and asked them to take immediate and effective measures against these terrorist entities,” she added.

She defended the prime minister’s press conference, saying his statement was neither new nor extraordinary.

“The prime minister said what Pakistan has been saying all along that we have concerns about Afghan territory being used by terrorist forces against Pakistan, and we have asked Afghanistan on several occasions to rein in these terrorist groups and take action against them.”

She said that the Afghan government was fully aware of Pakistan’s deep concerns about the hideouts and sanctuaries of terrorist groups that threaten Pakistan.

“They have made certain commitments to Pakistan and to the international community that the Afghan soil will not be used against Pakistan and we expect that Afghanistan will fulfil this commitment and take effective measures against these terrorist entities,” the spokesperson maintained.