TASHKENT: Prime Minister Imran Khan today (Friday) expressed disappointment over Pakistan being blamed for unrest in Afghanistan, saying that no one played more role than Pakistan did in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
“Blaming Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan is extremely unfair. Peace in Afghanistan is our foremost priority,” the prime minister said, adding that the ongoing unrest was the ‘outcome of using a military solution by the United States instead of a political one’.
The prime minister made the comments at the international conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” during his two-day visit to Uzbekistan. The Afghan president was also present at the conference.
Rejecting the assertions of President Ghani made against Pakistan for “not supporting peace”, PM Imran categorically stated that Pakistan did not want turmoil in its neighbourhood because peace was in its own interest.
“President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict,” the premier said.
He also said Taliban was no longer willing to compromise after the United States gave a date for the withdrawal of troops. “Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given, why would they listen to us when they are sensing victory” he questioned.
PM Imran said Pakistan had made every effort for peace in Afghanistan, including bringing the Taliban to the dialogue table. However, he said the right time to engage Taliban in negotiations was way before the pullout of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The premier said he would not have visited Kabul last year if Pakistan was not interested in peace. “The whole idea was to look upon Pakistan as a partner in peace. I feel disappointed that we have been blamed for what is going on in Afghanistan,” he added.
He said Pakistan was already hosting over three million Afghan refugees and did not have the capacity to bear another influx of refugees in the wake of further turmoil.
The premier said Pakistan would continue to support reconciliation in Afghanistan and urged the Afghan stakeholders and the international community to gear up efforts for a “politically negotiated settlement”.
The prime minister’s comments come a day before Pakistan is due to host a three-day conference on Afghanistan to give a fresh impetus to the efforts for peace.
“Pakistan is hosting the Afghan Peace Conference on July 17-19 […] to provide momentum to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said at the weekly media briefing.