Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated on Monday that if Pakistan is blamed for any deterioration in the Afghan peace process, the country will not accept responsibility.
The foreign minister said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a core group will reportedly be travelling to Washington shortly, speaking at the maiden session of the Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue in Islamabad.
“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.”
Foreign Minister 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.
“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.
He said that Pakistan has made a “clear decision” not to intervene in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs.
“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.
Several Afghan leaders from “every ethnic group” had been invited to Islamabad, he added, to convey a clear message that Pakistan wished to engage with all ethnic groupings and leaders “who matter and are necessary 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.”
“Time is running out,” FM Qureshi said, emphasising the need of finding leadership that Afghans trust. He encouraged the Afghan authorities and the Taliban to be more flexible, saying that if they stuck to their stances, the area would be doomed.
Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to Qureshi, have been emphasizing for years that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem.
He recounted how the prime minister had been dubbed “Taliban Khan” by many because of his attitude, but that the world was now acknowledging what he had stated and agreed with him that the only option was a negotiated resolution.
He said that there was a “new international convergence” on the position since the world had witnessed in the previous 20 years that even the most”sophisticated armies, weaponry and technology” could not bring peace to 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 reaffirmed that a “blame game” between Afghanistan and Pakistan would accomplish nothing and demanded that it be stopped.
Qureshi emphasised the need of “forgetting the past and looking forward.” He said that Pakistan was devoted to “sowing seeds of discontent” rather than “creating bridges.”
“Trust us when we say that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest.”
He expressed his worry and disappointment over remarks made by the Afghan vice president and national security advisor, saying that such utterances ran against the spirit of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.
He also responded to accusations that elements in Pakistan were involved in instigating trouble in Afghanistan through cross-border movement. Qureshi said Pakistan was doing “everything possible” for better border management.
“Hold me accountable when all my Afghan brothers and sisters have honourably returned home and then if there are movements and there is trouble [in Afghanistan], we will shoulder responsibility.”
He reiterated that the “time has come for an honourable and dignified return of Afghan refugees [back to their] home.”
The foreign minister also emphasised the importance of women in Afghanistan, saying that they should not be forgotten and that he was proud of Pakistani women who thrive in numerous professions.
“Twenty years is a long time and reforms have taken place. The Afghanistan of today is not the Afghanistan that was 20 years ago. The role of women in Afghan national life is extremely important.”
He emphasised that there was a new situation of “complete withdrawal” of US and allied forces from Afghanistan, which had raised a number of concerns, including an increase in violence, a stalemate in negotiations, an increase in the influx of refugees [to Pakistan], the expanding footprint of militant outfits, and the possibility of civil war if no peace deal was reached.