In meeting with delegation of Pak-Afghan Youth Forum, prime minister claims Afghan ambassador daughter’s statement on abduction does not match available evidence
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said Pakistan was not “responsible” for the actions of the Afghan Taliban, reiterating that no one wants peace in Kabul more than Islamabad.
“What the Taliban are doing, or aren’t doing, has nothing to do with us,” he told representatives of the Pak-Afghan Youth Forum in Islamabad. “We are not responsible, neither are we spokespersons for the Taliban,” he said, stressing that all Pakistan wants is “peace in Afghanistan.”
Responding to questions posed by the forum’s representatives, the prime minister recalled that he had always advocated a political solution to the Afghan conflict. The choice, he said, now rests with the Afghan people: either they can pursue a military-backed solution or seek a political settlement consisting of a government that includes Taliban representation. “It [political settlement] is the only solution,” he said.
To a question on allegations of Pakistan aiding and abetting the Taliban’s activities in Afghanistan—recent reports have suggested the insurgents have started collecting taxes and imposing harsh new laws in areas they have taken over—Khan said this was an “unfair” perception. He said Pakistan had “forced” the Taliban into talks with the U.S. and elected officials in Kabul, but could not do any more.
Claiming that Pakistanis considered Afghans “brothers” because of their shared heritage and historical links, he pointed out that even now Pakistan was hosting three million Afghan refugees. “Almost all of them are Pashtuns, and most of them will have sympathies with the Taliban,” he claimed. “How is Pakistan supposed to check who is going over there to fight when we have about 30,000 people crossing into Afghanistan daily?” he said, adding that Islamabad could not sift out Taliban supporters from refugee camps.
The prime minister pointed out that until recently, Pakistan and Afghanistan had a very porous border that made it even more difficult to manage who crossed over between the two countries. Thus far, he said, 90 percent of border fencing had been completed. “The Durand Line was imaginary,” he said of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding that several decades back the two countries had been part of a single state with India. “We are trying our best, but it is not possible to hold Pakistan responsible when you have over three million refugees here,” he reiterated.
To a question on Pakistan refusing military support to the U.S. for counter-terror operations in Afghanistan, Khan countered with how effectively the U.S. could stage a fight in Afghanistan from Pakistan when it hadn’t been able to accomplish much with boots on the ground. “If someone can convince me of this, we would be willing to talk,” he said.
The prime minister said stability in Afghanistan would also boost Pakistan’s economy, as it would give Islamabad access to the Central Asian Republics. “We have already signed an agreement with Uzbekistan for a railway line from Mazar-e-Sharif to Peshawar, which will reach Pakistan via Afghanistan,” he said.
On promoting sports, especially cricket, in Afghanistan, Khan said as a former athlete he was aware that no country in the history of cricket had achieved so much progress, in so little time, as Afghanistan. Noting that many of the national team’s players had started playing while living in refugee camps in Pakistan, he said other countries had taken 70 years to achieve the kind of success that Afghanistan’s team had managed in a fraction of the time.
Afghanistan and India
On why Pakistan, India and Afghanistan had not called a trilateral summit to deliberate on the ongoing peace process, Khan said that Islamabad and Delhi had no diplomatic ties since Aug. 5, 2019. “India abrogated the special status of India-held Kashmir [on that date],” he said, adding that until that decision was reversed, Pakistan could not restore normalcy in its ties with India.
To another question, the prime minister claimed Indian propaganda had created a misconception in Afghanistan that Pakistan’s policymaking was controlled by military institutions. He claimed that this was untrue, adding that the country’s military and his government were “on the same page,” and all foreign policy decisions were developed and implemented by elected leaders.
Afghan ambassador’s daughter
Commenting on an incident earlier this month regarding the alleged abduction of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter from Islamabad, Khan said that authorities had traced the route taken by Silsila Alikhil, including interrogating the drivers of all the taxis she had availed. “Unfortunately, what the ambassador’s daughter is saying and what the cameras show do not add up. She says she was put in a taxi, taken away and beaten up. But there is a picture of that taxi and she is sitting there and she is fine,” he claimed.
The prime minister said that the police had pulled all available records and there was a “discrepancy,” adding that since the ambassador and his family had returned to Afghanistan, there was no way for Pakistani authorities to confirm what had happened.