Pakistan pushing world to give Taliban a chance

FM Qureshi likely to undertake more visits to countries having stakes in Afghanistan


Kamran Yousaf August 29, 2021
A delegation of Afghan Taliban meets Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday. PHOTO: FO/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Since the fall of Kabul, Pakistan has been quietly engaging with key international and regional stakeholders with a message that Afghanistan should not be left alone and the incoming government there, likely to be led by the Afghan Taliban, should be given a chance.

Officials familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that there was a considered view among the policymakers in Pakistan that the international community must not prejudge the Taliban.

This was the message Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi carried during his recent four-nation visit that took him to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. He is likely to undertake more visits to the countries, having stakes in Afghanistan’s future.

But the officials said while Pakistan had been advocating support for the new setup in Afghanistan, this did not mean that it was not asking the Afghan Taliban to form an inclusive and broad-based government. So far, the officials added, the Taliban have given positive signals.

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Al-Jazeera, a Doha based Qatari channel, has reported that the Taliban are working on a plan to set up an inclusive caretaker government. The interim setup will include members not just from the Taliban but also from other ethnicities and groups, it added.

“This is exactly what we have been telling the Afghan Taliban,” said a senior Pakistani official, who believes that before any international recognition the Taliban need domestic acceptance too. “And that is possible only if they [Taliban] take along all the ethnic groups in the country,” the official added.

Foreign Minister Qureshi confirmed in a statement on Saturday that Pakistan was in touch with the Afghan Taliban leadership for the way forward. He said the Taliban were giving positive signals. “If they [Taliban] are giving positive signals the world must encourage them,” the foreign minister stressed.

He also urged the international community to avoid any repeat of past mistakes and do not leave Afghanistan alone. “If Afghanistan is left alone that would be a disaster for everyone,” he said, stressing the need for remaining engaged with a country that has been at war for the last four decades.

Read more Where is the Afghan Taliban's supreme leader?

Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan also sought the world’s support for the Afghan Taliban. He had said that the Taliban were doing exactly what the world had been asking for. Imran added the Taliban had promised to respect human and women rights, agreed to an inclusive government and not to let Afghan soil be used again by terrorists.

His key cabinet member Asad Umar expressed similar views on Saturday, seeking international financial assistance for an imminent Taliban government.

“The world must not repeat the mistake it made after the Soviet withdrawal. This is the time for the global community to engage and not isolate Afghanistan. A fraction of the money spent on the war in Afghanistan, spent honestly on development can enhance global security,” he tweeted.

Since the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul, the United States and other Western countries froze all financial assistance, something that would make it extremely difficult for the incoming government to run the affairs.

Pakistan, nevertheless, is hoping that the move is temporary and when the government takes shape in the neighbouring country the international community would revisit its strategy.

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