Pakistan urges Afghan leaders to reach concord with Taliban

By Our Diplomatic Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf on Friday said Pakistan was urging Afghan leaders to try to quickly reach a politically negotiated settlement with the Taliban to avoid further violence in Afghanistan. The adviser made the appeal while speaking to reporters in Islamabad. He stressed that the fall of city-after-city in neighbouring Afghanistan underscores the need to expedite the peace process. “Trust me, if they sit down, they will be able to come out with some sort of settlement and we will respect whatever Afghans decide,” Yusuf said. He added: “History will judge us very badly and poorly if we don’t put all efforts behind [this] for a political settlement” on the Afghan crisis.
Yusuf also defended Pakistan, saying it has done its best to facilitate the Afghan peace process in the past. At the stage, “we can give only one message: Pakistan cannot be a guarantor for peace, we can only facilitate. We will facilitate whatever we can,” he said. “Everybody needs to respect what Afghans decide politically,” Yusuf said.
Pakistan has repeatedly rejected allegations of taking sides in the Afghan conflict. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during the inaugural session of the Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue in Islamabad in June, had said that Pakistan had taken a “very clear decision” to not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. In an interview on Aug 11, Prime Minister Imran Khan had accused the United States of seeing Pakistan as useful only in the context of the “mess” it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting.
The premier had insisted Islamabad was not taking sides in Afghanistan. “I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that’s why there’s a different way of treating Pakistan now,” he had said. A political settlement in Afghanistan was looking difficult under current conditions, he added.
The prime minister had said he tried to persuade the Taliban leaders when they were visiting Pakistan to reach a settlement. “The condition is that as long as [President] Ashraf Ghani is there, we (Taliban) are not going to talk to the Afghan government,” the prime minister had said, quoting the Taliban leaders as telling him.