Pakistan's civil and military leaders will meet on Monday (today) in a hurriedly called session of the high-powered National Security Committee (NSC) to discuss the latest Afghan situation as Taliban are on the cusp of returning to power after being ousted by the US 20 years ago.
The speed and the scale of the Taliban capture of Afghanistan in a matter of a week not just stunned many countries but also Pakistan.
The high-level huddle, according to official sources, will debate the tricky question: should Pakistan recognise Taliban rule if they come to power through a peaceful transition.
Before the formal meeting of the NSC, informal consultations were held on Sunday by the policymakers in view of the fast-paced developments in Afghanistan.
Late night images showed Afghan Taliban entering the presidential palace, hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Reports quoting Taliban said the group would soon announce the establishment of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
It is believed that Pakistan had been pushing the Afghan Taliban not to use the word “Emirate” for the possible new government to avoid legitimacy problems. However, the Afghan Taliban seem unwilling to pay heed to Pakistan’s suggestion in a first indication that contrary to the perception, they might be taking independent decisions.
Like the US assessment, Pakistan, as per the sources, was not expecting Kabul to fall too quickly.
Only last week during the meeting of senior officials of Pakistan, the US and China in Doha, the Afghan Taliban had assured them that they would not enter Kabul and take everyone on board before making any such decision.
The NSC meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and in attendance would be key cabinet members, the army chief, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) DG and other relevant authorities.
The meeting would decide the country’s strategy including the possibility of recognising the Taliban rule. However, the sources said Pakistan was still pressing for an inclusive and broad-based government.
It is not clear if the Afghan Taliban would be willing to accept such an arrangement given their unprecedented victory.
At a recent background briefing, top officials said Pakistan, China, Iran and some other countries might recognise the Taliban rule.
Pakistan has publicly stated that it would not recognise the Taliban government if they take over by force. However, given that they entered the Afghan capital without any resistance, it would make it easier for Islamabad to make such a tricky decision.
Separately, the Foreign Office spokesperson said Pakistan was closely following the situation unfolding in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan will continue to support the efforts for a political settlement. We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal political crisis," Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said.
"The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul is extending necessary assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of PIA flights," he added.
The FO spokesperson said a special inter-ministerial cell had been set up in the interior ministry to facilitate visa/arrival matters for diplomatic personnel, UN agencies, international organisations, media and others.
As the Taliban moved into Kabul, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi received a call from Dominic Raab, the British secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs.
During the call, Qureshi reviewed the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan with Raab, according to an FO statement.
Reiterating Pakistan’s steadfast support for a peaceful settlement, the foreign minister said the latest situation in the neighbouring country required the international community’s consistent engagement with the Afghan leaders to ensure a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The foreign minister expressed the hope that the Afghan leaders would take advantage of international convergence in support of peace and reconciliation process.
He also informed Raab of Pakistan’s efforts to fully facilitate the evacuation of personnel and staff of diplomatic missions, international organisations, media and others, as requested.
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