A sceptical Afghan administration is wary of Pakistan’s alleged meddling in Afghanistan. It alleges that Islamabad, in its quest for ‘strategic depth’ in the region, supports the Taliban in their insurgency. Pakistan denies the charge and says it wants an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the 12-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated on Saturday that Islamabad did not and would not support any militant or political group in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan does not and will not support any group in any way rather we will help the Afghan government restore peace [in their country]. I assure every possible support to the Afghan government on behalf of my nation,” he told a briefing at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal and other key government officials were also in attendance. The premier was also briefed on Aziz’s scheduled visit to Kabul. Aziz will fly to Kabul today (Sunday) on a day-long visit.
Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani updated the premier on different aspects of the country’s foreign policy vis-a-vis its neighbours and world powers. He noted the positive international reaction to the first successful democratic transition in Pakistan and the optimism generated since the installation of the new government for qualitative improvement in relations with other countries.
The prime minister sought a report on the diplomatic activity over the controversial US drone strikes and the prospects of repatriation of Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui from the United States, sources told The Express Tribune.
Sources added that Nawaz expressed his disappointment over a statement by Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday afternoon that Pakistan was not doing enough to curb terrorism in the region.
Such negative statements undermined Pakistan’s efforts in the global war against terrorism, Nawaz said.
The briefing particularly focused on Pakistan’s bilateral relations with its immediate neighbours as well as with other key states. Foreign Secretary Jilani highlighted the broad contours of the country’s major relationships and offered the foreign ministry’s recommendations.
The prime minister’s primary focus was on pursuit of policies to strengthen Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring countries, advancement of national development goals, and enhancement of Pakistan’s international stature.
He said the Foreign Office and diplomatic missions abroad should work for promoting the country’s economic interests. He emphasised the imperatives of promotion of trade and pursuit of economic diplomacy.
He also sought an implementation report on the proposed cut in the expenses of Pakistan’s foreign missions abroad as part of the government’s overall austerity measures, sources told The Express Tribune.
Terming purposeful dialogue with India and Afghanistan as need of the hour, Premier Nawaz directed the Foreign Office to chalk out a strategy to initiate a comprehensive dialogue with the two neighbouring states.
In foreign policy, the promotion of cordial relations with neighbours tops the priority list of the PML-N government, he added. “Our government wants cordial relations with all neighbouring states – including Afghanistan, Iran and India. We believe giving a boost to bilateral ties with India and Afghanistan will ensure regional peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.