Interior minister claims Taliban’s takeover of Kabul has ‘increased’ importance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
The Afghan Taliban have assured Islamabad they will not allow the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to launch any attacks against Pakistan from Afghan soil, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed on Monday.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he admitted that the Taliban had released several members of the TTP following the group’s takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15, but stressed that the Pakistani government was in “contact” with the Taliban to address the issue. “Relevant authorities have been informed that anyone who committed terrorism in Pakistan [is under control],” he said, adding that, regardless, the Taliban had assured Islamabad that they would not allow the TTP to use Afghanistan as a launching pad.
A day earlier, the Voice of America reported that a commission set up by the Afghan Taliban had been working to encourage militants of the TTP—as well as other ‘anti-Pakistan groups’—to stop violence against Pakistan and return home. Citing sources in Islamabad, it said that the commission had been set up by Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada and comprised three members who had been tasked with investigating Islamabad’s complaints of TTP using Afghanistan to plot cross-border terrorist attacks.
To a question on the ongoing efforts to evacuate foreigners and journalists from Afghanistan, the minister claimed over 1,200 people—including Americans—had been brought to Pakistan, adding that Islamabad had issued more than 4,000 visas thus far. He confirmed 50 members of the Afghan cricket team had been issued visas, and emphasized that visa-on-arrival facilities for up to a month were being provided to diplomats and officials of international organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund who wished to leave Afghanistan.
Ahmed said Pakistan had no connection with the chaotic scenes witnessed at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. “People are expecting us to gather people from different areas and give them entry to Kabul airport but this is not our responsibility,” he said.
Referring to a potential refugee influx, the minister said the government had yet to formulate a decision on it, but was facilitating anyone who crossed over into Pakistan. He also claimed that Pakistan had “no reservation” on requests by European Union and other countries to park their planes in Pakistan for the repatriation of their citizens.
On the fallout of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Ahmed claimed it had increased the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Describing CPEC as the “jugular vein” of Pakistan’s economy, he resorted to his usual rhetoric of blaming “international conspiracies” for trying to damage the initiative and emphasized that the government was committed to its success.
He said he had assured Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong—whom he met on Sunday—of complete security for Chinese workers, adding that all of Pakistan’s institutions were working on it. He said that several suspects involved in attacks on Chinese nationals had been arrested already, while others were being traced. “We have reached the source of the Fisher Colony incident,” he claimed, referring to last week’s suicide attack on a vehicle transporting Chinese nationals in Balochistan’s Gwadar.