Foreign minister urges international community to remain in contact with the Taliban and avoid isolating them
The global community has started to acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate an all-inclusive government in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed on Monday, as he detailed Islamabad’s ongoing role in evacuations from Kabul.
Since the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15, thousands of foreigners and Afghan nationals have fled the country, many shifting to Pakistan as a waypoint before proceeding elsewhere. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Qureshi said 542 foreign nationals were evacuated to Pakistan on Monday alone, adding that over 3,000 foreigners had been brought to Islamabad since Aug. 15.
He said that a special cell had been established in Islamabad that included representatives of both the interior and foreign ministries, adding that it was overseeing the provision of visa on arrival facility to people coming from Afghanistan. “Since Aug. 16, five PIA flights have operated between Kabul and Islamabad, evacuating hundreds of people,” he said, adding that citizens of 28 countries had benefitted from facilities provided by Pakistan so far. “We have facilitated 3,234 officials of different international organizations,” he said, adding that 293 officials of World Bank were also evacuated from Kabul.
Stressing that Islamabad wanted nothing more than peace in Kabul, he noted that the Afghan situation was changing rapidly. “Safe evacuations from Afghanistan are important,” he said, adding that he had spoken with his Danish, Swedish, Turkish, and Belgian counterparts on the ongoing evacuation efforts. He said Saudi Arabia had also reached out and sought the relocation of its diplomats from Kabul to Pakistan. “The international community should remain in contact with the Afghan Taliban,” he said.
The foreign minister said Pakistan was facilitating an inclusive interim arrangement that had wider acceptability. “I have shared [Pakistan’s intentions] with many foreign ministers and they are in sync with us,” he said and added that Pakistan was playing a critical role in these challenging times. He also hoped that Afghan soil would not be used by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to launch attacks against Pakistan.
Qureshi left for a visit to regional countries—Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran—today (Tuesday), during which he is slated to discuss the Afghanistan crisis. He said Pakistan wanted to hear the regional states’ assessments of the situation, and discuss the immediate challenges facing Afghanistan’s neighbors.
Claiming that the situation in Afghanistan was largely calm, he stressed that challenges remained. “First, we have so many people coming in and going out of Pakistan to Afghanistan … normally we have 25,000 to 30,000 people crossing the border … it is a huge number,” he said, adding that he would discuss the potential influx of refugees, COVID-19 and other issues during his regional tour.
Qureshi said the opportunities in Afghanistan for neighboring countries would also be discussed. “How can we achieve regional connectivity … it is important to consult with them as immediate neighbors [of Afghanistan] have an important role to play,” he added.