FM calls for unfreezing Afghan assets

Says economic collapse can give space to terrorists


APP September 28, 2021
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. RADIO PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD:

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday exhorted the international community to engage with the ‘new reality’ in Afghanistan and unfreeze the assets so that things did not fall apart.

“We have been urging the international community to engage with the new reality in Afghanistan so that things do not fall apart and so that there is the semblance of order,” he said while appearing at an Al-Jazeera talk show programme.

Expressing his view over the freezing of about $10 billion in Afghan assets, the foreign minister said that Afghan people need an economic injection and that money could become handy if available. “Unfreeze it and make it available for the Afghan people. There is a humanitarian crisis in the making and use that money to address the crises,” Qureshi said.

He suggested that there could be ways and means to ensure that the money be reached to the needy and not misused and in this connection, the UN could play a role.

To a query, the FM said that it certainly concerned them if there was a total economic collapse in Afghanistan. “The collapse could lead to the exodus, a huge influx of refugees moving in different directions towards, Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan. It could destabilise the entire region. And we are very concerned about that,” he elaborated his point of view.

The economic collapse could give space to terrorists, he said, adding that it would have serious consequences not only for Pakistan but for the entire region.

To another query, Qureshi said that there was uncertainty when the Taliban took control of the government on August 15, but the “anxiety had gone down” due to the reasons that there was “no bloodshed” and chances of major civil war had been “averted”. There was an announcement of general amnesty and commitment by the Taliban that there would be no revenge, he said and claimed that there was more calmness.

Read More: No one from Afghanistan will address world leaders at UN

“So I don’t think people are restless at the moment, but yes, things remain uncertain and if not some challenges are not addressed – taken rigidly, they can take a different turn,” the foreign minister said. About recognising the Taliban set up, the foreign minister said: “We are watching and observing as the things unfold and we will make a decision at an appropriate time.”

On the US’s invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, Qureshi said that perhaps, they had no choice as there was compulsion due to the public opinion. The US should have focused on what they had after disseminating the al-Qaeda network, he said, adding that they should have worked towards peace and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

“The country could have gone to normal. The bulk of the money had been spent on security and less on development. The government of Ashraf Ghani lost credibility because the Afghan people felt that life under them was not improved and not secured. There was squabbling and infighting and they were not certain about their future,” the FM added.

To another query about allegations of former acting president of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh, Qureshi alleged that the former used to speak of someone else language. The FM claimed that Saleh was briefed by India and on their payroll.

Talking about Pakistan’s steps, the foreign minister said that Pakistan had undertaken a number of operations to clean up its tribal areas of terrorists and it “did it successfully” at the cost of huge losses. The safe havens and fighters were operating across the border of Pakistan and were inside Afghanistan, he alleged, adding that Pakistan had identified those safe havens which were used against it.

Qureshi added that there was surveillance and monitoring on its part and whenever Pakistan was accused of having safe havens for terrorists, the blaming quarters were invited to come to such areas and see the situation themselves.

On inclusive government in Afghanistan, the foreign minister claimed that gradually, it appeared the Taliban had accepted the idea mentally over the inclusion of ethnicities. “Pakistan has been advocating for a more inclusive approach,” he said, adding that in politics, you have to make compromises and make moves to accommodate all points of view from both sides.

The foreign minister was of the view that Afghans were very independent-minded people who took their own decisions. “We as [per our] policy decided not to interfere in their internal matters. We will help when asked to help,” he said reiterating to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

He asserted that Pakistan would do whatever it could to achieve stability in Afghanistan. “We have no business in interfering with their internal matters,” he added.

To a question about female education in Afghanistan, he said to his information, girls were going to schools and colleges and not being restricted. He added that women could be accommodated in the cabinet.

Qureshi said the Taliban had urged the people who were in the government service to come back and resume work. “It takes time to bridge the trust deficit,” he added.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan-Afghan borders were kept open. “The question is – would you allow people into your country without documentations visa or passports. You don’t. There are certain norms you have to follow,” he added.

In the past, the FM said such borders were porous and Pakistan paid the price. And, he said it was accused of cross border movements, but eventually, Pakistan fenced the border for better management and regulations.

To a question, he said the Taliban had made a clear commitment that Afghan soil would not be used against any country, including Pakistan. “I hope they will live up to that promise,” he added.

About sophisticated weaponry left behind by US forces, the foreign minister said if it went in the wrong hands, it obviously concerned them.

Moreover, on the cancellation of the home series by New Zealand and England cricket teams, Qureshi said that he wished they had visited Pakistan. He said they had assured the teams of security and protection.

To reduce their anxiety and make them feel more protected, he said the government had suggested that stadiums would be kept empty. “But the game should go on. They pulled back which was disappointing,” he added.

The foreign minister alleged that India should stop its spoiler’s role in the region. “In Afghanistan, its role was not helpful in the peace process, as a matter of fact, they were obstructionist in the peace process and collided with the Ghani’s government by blocking the negotiation process,” he added.

To a query regarding elections in Afghanistan, he said: “Let the things settle down and let things calm down. Let the people feel secure. Then we [the international community] can talk about representation.”

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