ISLAMABAD: While finally confirming the death of Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a US drone strike, Pakistan on Thursday said Washington’s action had scuttled efforts to bring the insurgent group onto the negotiating table.
“The death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a drone strike on May 21 has added to the complexity of the Afghan conflict,” Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told reporters at a news conference. “We believe that this action has undermined the Afghan peace process,” he said.
Sartaj officially confirmed that Mullah Mansoor was killed in the US drone strike in Naushki, Baluchistan. “All indicators confirm that the person killed in the drone strike was Mullah Akhtar Mansoor who was travelling on a fake identity. The DNA test result will be available shortly,” he said.
Pakistan’s confirmation came just a day after the Taliban also announced that their chief was dead.
Contrary to media reports that Mansoor was buried in Spin Boldak, the adviser said his body was still in Pakistan’s custody and would be handed over to his family once the DNA test results were submitted.
Talking about the implications of the US move, the adviser said Mansoor’s killing had negatively affected efforts to seek a political solution to the long running turmoil in the war-torn country. He said at the last meeting of Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on April 18, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China had agreed that politically negotiated settlement was the most viable option and efforts should continue to bring Taliban on the table.
“This understanding has not been respected,” Sartaj lamented, saying the US drone strike had derailed the Afghan peace process for the second time in a year.
The US justified its unprecedented move by suggesting that Mansoor was the main hurdle in the way of Afghan reconciliation process.
Asked to comment on the US justification for the strike, Sartaj insisted that according to their information, Mansoor was not against peace talks. “Our people who were in contact with Mullah Mansoor do not share the view of the US,” he said.
He said Pakistan would try to convince the US that use of force was no solution to the Afghan conflict. “On one side you want to start talks with them while on the other side you are killing them. This is not a consistent attitude,” he said. “The use of force for past 15 years has failed to deliver peace,” he added.
“We believe this approach will further destabilize Afghanistan, which will have negative implications for the region, especially due to the presence of large number of terrorist groups in Afghanistan.”
Sartaj said Pakistan believes that politically negotiated settlement remains the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan. He said Pakistan was in contact with Afghanistan, China and the US to discuss the fate of fragile peace efforts.
“Pakistan will continue to pursue the objective in close consultation with Afghanistan Government and other members of the QCG,” he added.
He said apart from the quadrilateral framework, Pakistan would keep on consulting them on this bilaterally on moving the peace process forward.
Responding to questions as to how Mullah Mansoor entered Pakistan undetected, Sartaj said Pakistan was seeking effective border management for checking the infiltrations across long and porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Afghan Government’s cooperation in this regard is an imperative for mutual security, he stressed.
Terming the presence of large number of Afghan refugees a big security risk, the adviser said terrorists and militants used the refugee camps as hideouts for their nefarious activities. “Effective measures should be taken on an urgent basis by the International Community for the repatriation of Afghan refugees,” he demanded.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2016.