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Pakistan needs to coexist with Taliban: FM Qureshi

Britain signals intent to engage with Taliban. (Source: Radio Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has asserted that Pakistan needs to coexist with Afghanistan hence, its approach towards Taliban will have to “realistic”.

“Some have the choice of getting up and leaving but we do not. We are neighbours and we have to coexist,” the foreign minister said while addressing a press conference alongside British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Friday.  

Responding to a question about whether Pakistan’s ties with Taliban will be based on certain conditions, Qureshi said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were in partnership for peace. “Geography ties us together so our approach to the Taliban has to be somewhat different and realistic,” he added.

He said Pakistan had been saying that it had no favourites in Afghanistan, adding that it had certain compulsions while dealing with the country. “A bulk of Afghanistan’s trade goes through Pakistan and closure of the border would result in another humanitarian crisis,” he added.

“Pakistan wanted to help the people of Afghanistan who have suffered for decades,” he said, adding that after so long there was a real opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. “We are waiting to see what happens in the next few days with eyes and ears open,” he added.

The minister said Afghanistan comprised of different ethnic groups. “That is why we have said as neighbours and wellwishers that it is in Afghanistan’s interest to adopt an inclusive approach,” Qureshi added.

Meanwhile, the British foreign secretary said, “The approach we are taking is that we don’t recognise the Taliban as a government but we do see the importance of being able to engage and have a direct line of communication.”

He noted that the Taliban had made a series of undertakings, “some of them are positive at the level of words” but there was a need to test whether they translated into deeds.

Dominic Raab said the country evacuated about 15,000 people from Kabul to the UK, adding that it was an unprecedented action for the country in modern times.

“We have increased our aid budget for Afghanistan to £286 million. We would also be supporting countries who face great demands for those who may be displaced in the weeks ahead,” the British envoy said.

The British foreign secretary added that the country was sending upto £30 million of lifesaving support to Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Pakistan. “This is the money to provide shelter, household necessities and sanitation for those who come across the border,” he added,

Pakistan on ‘red list’

The two FMs also held discussions on Pakistan’s inclusion in the UK’s red list, according to Qureshi. He said that a technical meeting will be held on Monday (September 6) to discuss the measures taken by Pakistan to get off the travel ‘red list’.

Dr Faisal Sultan will represent Pakistan in the meeting that will discuss measures to be taken by Pakistan to get into the amber list.

In a comment on the list, Raab said that he commended the efforts of the Pakistani government to curb the pandemic. He said the government based its decision on technical and scientific evidence that could be “contested”.