Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday maintained that most of the refugees who came to Pakistan from Afghanistan supported the Taliban.
“But Pakistan has no way of knowing who is supporting the Taliban or not,” the premier said while speaking to a group of Afghan journalists in Islamabad.
When asked about the bodies of Taliban fighters returning to Pakistan in recent days, PM Imran claimed that there were about three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and “almost all of them were Pashtuns”. “Most of them, if not all, sympathise with the Taliban,” he added.
“How can we check [as to who was going to fight] when 25,000 to 30,000 of Afghans travel to and from Afghanistan every day.”
The premier pointed out that there were camps in Pakistan where up to 100,000 to 50,000 refugees lived.
“How can we go to these camps and find out how many of them support the Taliban?”
The premier further said Pakistan was neither "responsible" for the actions of the Taliban, nor was the country the group's spokesperson.
"What the Taliban are doing or are not doing has nothing to do with us. We are neither responsible, nor the spokesperson for the Taliban.”
He reiterated that Islamabad only wanted peace in Afghanistan. When asked about India, the premier said Pakistan would not accept the neighbouring country’s participation in the Afghan peace process until it reverted its illegal decisions of August 5, 2019.
"Pakistan has always desired for peace with India, but it was India which did not want peace because it is at present under the influence of the RSS ideology," he added.
Coming back to Afghanistan, PM Imran said Pakistan was ready and willing to do anything necessary for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, but ruled out using force against the Taliban.
“We do not have any favourites in Afghanistan. We believe that Afghanistan cannot be controlled from the outside. Our policy is to have the best relationship with whoever the people of Afghanistan choose," the premier added.
PM Imran further said it was unfortunate that Pakistan was being blamed for the Afghan crisis as it was Islamabad that convinced the Taliban to come to the negotiation table.
“What interest would Pakistan possibly have for a civil war in Afghanistan? We would do everything short of military action against the Taliban as doing so would only drag us into a conflict."
He further said the civil war would spill over to Pakistan’s tribal areas and at least 70,000 Pakistanis were killed earlier when the country took part in the US-led war on terror.
Regarding the provision of military bases to the US in Pakistan, PM Imran posed the question as to what could the US possibly achieve from operating out of Pakistan which they could not achieve by operating in Afghanistan for two decades.
“It was a flawed strategy. They should have talked to the Taliban from a position of strength when there were 150,000 NATO soldiers present in Afghanistan. There is no reason for the US to operate from Pakistan,” the PM asserted.
Referring to America's military adventure in Vietnam, PM Imran said the same situation developed during that conflict.
“They blamed Cambodia after their loss and then the US destabilised it by bombing the country. It still did not make any difference.”
On the alleged kidnapping incident of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter, the premier said that a detailed mapping of the routes had been done which were taken by her.
“Unfortunately, the account of ambassador’s daughter does not tally to what she said about where she was taken and beaten up. We have analysed the footage and the police have also interrogated all three taxi drivers. She could be seen sitting perfectly fine where she said she was beaten.”
He added that we could not question the ambassador or her daughter as the envoy and his family had returned to Afghanistan, but the footage would be handed over to the Afghan delegation so that they could ask them.
(With input from agencies)
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