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Afghan Taliban ‘Changed,’ Want Dialogue for Peace, Claims Sheikh Rashid

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed

Pakistan’s interior minister says regional progress cannot be achieved without peace in Afghanistan

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Sunday described the Afghan Taliban as “changed,” and claimed the group now preferred dialogue to violence to accomplish its goal of forming the next government in Afghanistan.

Speaking with media as part of the ongoing election campaign for Pakistan-administered Kashmir, he claimed the “new, civilized” Taliban did not want to provoke a civil war in Afghanistan. He reiterated claims of Islamabad not accepting any government in Afghanistan that did not reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people. “Dialogue with Taliban will be in the interest of all. We will support peace in neighboring country Afghanistan,” he said.

“Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan,” he said, reiterating that both the government and the opposition were united on this. “It is important, not only for Pakistan, but the entire region to initiate talks with the Afghan Taliban,” he said, adding Pakistan’s strategic location ensured that no superpower could afford to ignore or pressure it.

“If China wants to invest $400 billion in Iran, it will not be possible without peace in Afghanistan. The train we want to bring to Uzbekistan is not possible without stability in Afghanistan. China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan are in a changed region,” he said, explaining why there needed to be international stress on intra-Afghan talks.

India’s role

Reacting to reports of India pulling out staff from Kandahar, he claimed Delhi had been “embarrassed” in Afghanistan and had no choice left but to withdraw its personnel. Accusing India of using Afghan soil to provoke terrorism in Pakistan, he said the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border had improved the country’s security situation.

The interior minister also addressed the ongoing election campaign in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, slamming the opposition for making speeches criticizing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s actions following India’s Aug. 5, 2019 unilateral decision to abrogate the special constitutional status of the disputed region.

Claiming that the opposition’s accusations of “pre-poll rigging”—prompted by viral clips of sitting ministers distributing money to constituents—indicated they were losing the battle in the upcoming elections, he alleged they were only defending the stance of the people of Occupied Kashmir on TV.

“Imran Khan will fight for the Kashmir cause across the globe and PTI will form its government in the upcoming AJK elections [on July 25],” he said, claiming the PTI was a national party.

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