Negotiations only way to resolve Afghan problem instead of military way: PM Abbasi

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NEW YORK : Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has warned that little progress towards ending the long-running conflict in Afghanistan would be made until all sides entered into peace talks, saying there was no military solution.

The prime minister, in an interview with Bloomberg, a new York-based international news agency, voiced skepticism over US President Donald Trump’s increase in troops to assist the Afghan security forces and said Islamabad was ready to help mediate talks with the Taliban.

“At the end of the day the Afghans have to sit down and talk,” Prime Minister Abbasi said in the interview released Monday.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have deteriorated in the past year, the Bloomberg report noted. On January 1, President Trump withheld nearly $2 billion in aid, alleging Islamabad has not taken decisive action against the Haqqani network.

Prime Minister Abbasi, in the interview, rejected charges that Pakistan had been selective in its fight against terrorism. Following an announcement last week that 27 Taliban and Haqqani network insurgents had been handed over to Afghanistan in November in a what Abbasi described as a “routine” prisoner transfer. He said there was no evidence Pakistan was backing militants fighting across the border after a spate of violence left hundreds dead and wounded in Kabul last month.

“These are Afghan nationals, who were arrested inside Pakistan, they were not involved in a terror attack on us otherwise we would have prosecuted them here, so we handed them back to the Afghans,” the prime minister said.

US military funding was already “very minimal,” Abbasi said, noting Pakistan was still owed billions of dollars in reimbursements from the Coalition Support Fund. However, he said, Pakistan was not considering closing the US supply routes into landlocked Afghanistan.

Bloomberg said Trump’s actions have provoked outcry from Pakistani officials, who draw attention to the thousands of civilians and soldiers who have died fighting terrorism within its borders.

Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said last month Pakistan felt “betrayed” and won’t seek a restoration of American aid. Islamabad has also drawn closer to China as it finances more than $50 billion in infrastructure projects across Pakistan, the report said.

Despite Trump’s stance, Abbasi said talks and intelligence cooperation was still ongoing and that a growing relationship with China should not stop that.

“They are not mutually exclusive relationships and nobody wants it that way either,” Abbasi said. “China is more of a longer term, a deeper relationship, the US is probably more transactional.”

Action has been taken against the United Nations Security Council sanctioned charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, who was released from house arrest in Lahore in November — provoking condemnation from the White House and India, it was pointed out.

In the last two-to-three months Pakistan has “more or less complied” with sanctions against the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation and Jamaat-ud Dawa, an alleged front for banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, Prime Minister Abbasi said.

More action against Hafiz Saeed is unlikely as “we have no charges against him,” he said.

Orignally published by NNI

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