National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf on Saturday presented a grim picture of the Afghan situation, warning that the negative fallout of the civil war in the neighbouring country may result in the Taliban fighters slipping into Pakistan as refugees.
Both the FM and the NSA gave a detailed briefing to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, headed by Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sherry Rehman. The meeting was convened to discuss the current Afghan situation. Initially, the foreign minister wanted the briefing to be in-camera, citing sensitivity of the issue but the committee chairperson rejected his demand.
The NSA briefed the committee as a special invitee. Moeed sounded pessimistic about the prospects of peace in Afghanistan. “The situation is bad and out of Pakistan’s control.”
Meanwhile, FM Qureshi said Pakistan was seeking a political settlement and pressing for a power-sharing deal to prevent a civil war in Afghanistan.
As the US started withdrawing troops from the war-torn country, Taliban have made rapid inroads capturing districts after districts even in areas which were previously not their strongholds. The insurgent group has also overrun areas bordering Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Amid the volatile situation, US President Joe Biden on Friday announced that the US would complete the troop drawdown by August 31 instead of September 11. He said while the US would continue to provide diplomatic and economic support to Afghanistan, it was up to the people and their leadership to decide their future. He insisted that it was not the job of the US to build Afghanistan as a nation.
According to the statement issued by the Senate Secretariat, members of the Senate panel voiced concerns about the impact of the accelerated United States’ exit, and the security vacuum that had ensued.
“We hope the security stalemate is resolved peacefully as talks continue in other regional countries, and we also hope that gains made in the last 20 years are not reversed. There are natural questions based on a potential worsening of the crisis, and the fact remains that the Taliban are negotiating now from a position of unprecedented strength,” committee chairperson Rehman said.
She said Pakistan’s first priority must be to protect its population from a surge in violent extremism, as well as a constructed narrative from certain spoiler quarters that Pakistan had to bear the responsibility of both security and peace in Afghanistan.
“The burden must be shared by the region and international community in meaningful ways and for this, Pakistan must launch a diplomatic offensive for a big-tent conference that shares the task of negotiating peace, and shoring up a torn country driven by a war economy.” Rehman said. “It is not the best time to be making enemies in any geopolitical contest in the region or in the broader global context given our exposure to the multilateral system. Pakistan should not get caught up in the crosshairs of any new great game, or at least manage a balance.”
At the outset when FM Qureshi started speaking, Sherry reminded him by suggesting the Foreign Affairs Committee was an “optimal parliamentary instrument for building consensus on key issues that beset the country at a difficult time in the region”.
“This is not a political jalsa, but an important venue for building stakes in inclusive policymaking, particularly when pressures from Afghanistan loom large, including the threat of civil war and escalating violence which could likely result in a spillover into Pakistan,” she added, asking the foreign minister to stick to the subject instead of political point-scoring.
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