In joint press conference with U.K. foreign secretary, foreign minister addresses human rights violations in India-held Kashmir, Pakistan’s placement on travel red-list
Some countries have the option of abandoning Afghanistan, but as a geographic neighbor, Pakistan does not have this choice and needs to coexist with the Taliban through a realistic approach, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday.
“The bulk of Afghanistan’s trade passes through Pakistan so could the latter close its border with the former? Would Pakistan be contributing to any ensuing humanitarian crisis as a result?” he told a joint press conference with U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab, who is currently on a two-day visit to Islamabad. “If we have to trade with them then who do we talk to? Engaging with any authority who is in charge is a compulsion that we have to deal with,” he said, adding that this did not mean that cross-border traffic should not be regulated especially in light of the risks involved.
Reiterating Pakistan’s stance that Afghans must decide their own future, he said Islamabad would engaged with whatever government that had the support of the Afghan population. “We want to help the people of Afghanistan because we feel they have suffered for decades and there is a real opportunity for peace after 40 years,” he said, adding that Pakistan would watch developments over the next few days—when the Taliban are expected to announce Afghanistan’s new government” with “eyes and ears open.”
Responding to a query on the U.K.’s approach to the Taliban, Raab said that Britain, as a matter of policy, recognized states, not governments. However, he said, London acknowledged the importance of having a direct line of communication with the Taliban to discuss a “range of issues,” including the safe passage of British nationals still in Afghanistan, as well as that of Afghans who worked for the U.K. government. He said maintaining contacts would also allow the U.K. to check if the Taliban were delivering on their promises.
Stressing that the U.K. was committed to preventing any humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Raab said he had discussed the issue of establishing a “lifeline” with Qureshi, adding that they had also debated on ways to ensure regional stability and prevent Afghan land from being used as a safe haven for terrorists.
The foreign minister said he and Raab had also discussed the issue of Pakistan being on the U.K.’s travel red list—which requires travelers to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine at government-designated hotels at own cost—and how it could be moved to the amber list—which allows travelers to quarantine at home. “I’m happy there is a technical meeting that has been arranged on Monday. [Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health] Dr. Faisal Sultan will be representing Pakistan and putting forward our point of view,” he said, adding that he had also recommended some measures that could raise the comfort level of both countries.
The U.K. foreign secretary said he was aware of the impact of the red-list on British and Pakistani nationals, stressing that the people-to-people contacts between the two states were a key component of their bilateral ties. “I also commend the efforts of the Government of Pakistan to contain the pandemic … we understand this is a sensitive and difficult issue,” he said and sought to dismiss the perception that the decision was politically motivated, emphasizing that the U.K.’s system were based on scientific and technical evidence.
“We want to find a way through. No one wants Pakistan off the red list more than I do but we take these decisions on a technical level. I think the smart thing for us to do is to work together to enable that to happen as soon, as safely and as responsibly as can be done,” he said.
Both officials said they wanted to boost relations between the U.K. and Pakistan. Qureshi noted that he had briefed Raab on Islamabad’s progress in fulfilling the requirements of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force to get itself removed from the watchdog’s grey-list. “I have urged the foreign secretary to be supportive of Pakistan on the steps that we have taken,” he said.
To a question, the foreign minister said he had also brought up the issue of India-held Kashmir. The U.K. official said that Britain believed it was up to India and Pakistan to find a long-lasting political solution to the conflict. “We encourage both sides to maintain a constructive dialogue,” he added.
Raab also thanked Pakistan for its aid in evacuating British nationals from Afghanistan.
Solidarity with Afghans
Separately, Raab also met Prime Minister Imran Khan and discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan and the U.K.’s bilateral ties and various regional and international issues, read a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
During their meeting, Khan reiterated the importance of a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan for Pakistan and the region’s stability. He stressed upon the importance of stabilizing the security situation in Afghanistan, taking steps to consolidate peace, and prevent any mass exodus of refugees.
The prime minister said that the international community stand in solidarity with the Afghan people and create incentives for a peaceful, stable, and inclusive polity in the country. He also warned about the role of “spoilers” inside and outside Afghanistan that could destabilize the situation.
Khan, per the statement, also updated Raab on ongoing human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.