Islamabad, 29 July 2021 (Daily Dawn)
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan cannot be held “responsible” for the actions of the Taliban in the aftermath of US and its allies’ ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding that his government is not a spokesperson for the militant group.
“What the Taliban are doing or aren’t doing has nothing to do with us. We are not responsible, neither are we spokespersons for the Taliban,” he said in comments to Afghan media representatives that were aired on Thursday.
The premier’s remarks were a continuation of Pakistan’s repeated warnings that it would not accept the responsibility if it was blamed for any deterioration in the Afghan peace process.
PM Imran today again distanced Islamabad from the happenings in Kabul, saying: “All we want is peace in Afghanistan.”
He said that the Afghans had a choice to make: to either pursue the US-backed military solution or to pursue a political settlement where there is an inclusive government. “[The latter] is the only solution,” he said.
“There are three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, almost all of them are Pashtuns and most will have sympathies with the Taliban. How is Pakistan supposed to check who is going over there to fight when we have about 30,000 people crossing into Afghanistan every day. How is Pakistan going to check that?”
“We have three million refugees in Pakistan […] how can Pakistan be held responsible? There are refugee camps with 100,000 and 500,000 people.”
He said it was not possible for Pakistan to sift through the refugee camps to find out who was pro-Taliban and who was not, adding that until recently there was no physical border between the two countries.
“The Durand Line was imaginary,” he said, referring to the 2640-kilometre-long border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said that Pakistan has completed 90 per cent of the border fencing.
“We are trying our best, but it is not possible to hold Pakistan responsible when you have over three million refugees here.”
‘Civil war in Afghanistan not in Pakistan’s interest’
He said that it was not in Pakistan’s interest to have civil war break out in Afghanistan. “What interest could Pakistan have in backing someone to take over Afghanistan?”
What is clear is that no one party will be able to take over Afghanistan, he said.
PM Imran said that in the 90s Pakistan had pursued the policy of ‘strategic depth’ as it was wary of Indian influence in Afghanistan. “In those days we did try to have favourites. Now, and especially in my government, we believe that Afghanistan can never be controlled from the outside.” So Pakistan will have good relations with whoever the Afghans choose, he said. “We have no favourites now.”