PM Imran Khan responded to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s allegations that Pakistan had a “negative role” in the Afghan peace process, saying it was “unfair” to blame Pakistan for the country’s current predicament.
During his two-day visit to Uzbekistan, the prime minister delivered the remarks at an international conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities.” At the meeting, the Afghan president was also present.
PM Imran’s comments came just before the two leaders were set to meet on the conference’s sidelines.
“President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict,” the premier said as he stopped reading from his written speech.
He also claimed that the Taliban was no longer ready to negotiate after the US set a deadline for military departure.
“When there were 150,000 Nato troops […] that was the time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given […] why would they listen to us when they are sensing victory” the prime minister questioned.
The premier said that Pakistan’s economy was finally recovering after going through a difficult phase. “I repeat, the last thing we want is turbulence in Afghanistan.”
PM Imran stated that no country has tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table for dialogue. “We have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement [in Afghanistan].
“To blame Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan is extremely unfair.”
PM Khan said that he would not have visited Kabul in November last year if Pakistan was not interested in peace. “The whole idea was to look upon Pakistan as a partner in peace. I feel disappointed that we have been blamed for what is going on in Afghanistan”.
He said that the current state of affairs in Afghanistan is the consequence of more than two decades of war and the US’s pursuit of a military solution.
He said he spoke with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on how all of the region’s neighbors can assist the Afghan peace process. “It is in all of our interests.”
“We are petrified that there will be another influx of refugees and we do not have the capacity or the economic strength to bear it. So I can assure you again if any country is trying its best, it is Pakistan.”
Later, on the margins of the meeting, the prime minister met with Ghani. According to Radio Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are conducting delegation-level discussions for their respective countries.
Pakistan to host Afghan peace conference
The prime minister’s remarks came only one day before Pakistan hosts a three-day summit on Afghanistan to re-energize peace efforts.
At the weekly media conference, Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri stated, “Pakistan is hosting the Afghan Peace Conference on July 17-19 […] to give impetus to the current efforts for peace in Afghanistan.”
The conference has been extended as an invitation to Afghanistan’s political leadership.
According to Tolo News, 21 prominent Afghan leaders have been invited to the conference in Islamabad, including Abdullah Abdullah, Karim Khalili, Mohammad Younus Qanooni, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Salahuddin Rabbani, Ismail Khan, Ata Mohammad Noor, Sayed Hamed Gailani, Sayed Eshaq Gailani, Batur Dostum,
According to Chaudhri, a number of them have already confirmed their attendance. The Taliban were not among the invitees, according to the spokesperson, since they had already visited Pakistan and had extensive talks on the peace process.
“The aim of the forthcoming peace conference is to engage with and consult all sides on the Afghan peace process. We hope that this conference will provide impetus to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan,” the spokesman said while explaining the objective of the conference,” FO spokesman said.