ISLAMABAD, AUG 9: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday reiterated that Pakistan will play its effective role in the Afghan peace process, but underlined that “peace in the neighbouring country is a shared responsibility and the international community cannot shy away from it”.

“We won’t let some harsh statements block our desire to attain peace and stability,” he told a press conference in Islamabad today.

Qureshi said Pakistan had repeatedly expressed its concern at spoilers which were based within and outside Afghanistan. “There are elements who don’t want to see peace and stability, and they want to keep Pakistan in a sandwiched position for the perpetuation of their own ambitions for power”.

‘Stop pointing fingers’

The foreign minister said that Pakistan had repeatedly urged against pointing fingers, adding that “if you have an issue, bring it up, discuss it and let’s find a way out.”

“I have invited the Afghan foreign minister in writing to visit Islamabad to raise the issues that he has in mind so that as neighbours, we can discuss and resolve them,” Qureshi said.

He added that Pakistan had also urged the Afghan government to refrain from a “blame game” and engage with Pakistan in a meaningful manner to address the challenges to peace and security in the region.

“We have repeatedly stated that we have no favourites in Afghanistan. We see all sides of the conflict as Afghans. It is unfortunate to scapegoat Pakistan for the failures of others. The issues of governance and meltdown of Afghan National Defence Forces needs to be looked into, instead of simply pointing fingers at Pakistan.”

He underlined that the peace process in Afghanistan was at a critical juncture.

It is important that all energies are focused at finding an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement through a process that is Afghan-led and Afghan owned, the minister added.

He reiterated that it was for the Afghans to decide about their future. He said Pakistan had consistently been advocating that there was no military solution to the conflict and a “negotiated political situation” was the only way forward, something which the international community now agreed.

Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan had always been an advocate of a negotiated political solution “and I am glad that there is a convergence at the international level that this is the sensible way forward.”

He recalled that Pakistan played an instrumental role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table in 2019. “Pakistan facilitated the conclusion of the US-Taliban peace agreement in Feb 2020 in Doha.

Pakistan helped convene the intra-Afghan negotiations in Sep 2020 and in Dec 2020, Pakistan contributed to the rules of procedure agreed between the parties. Pakistan has joined the troika — US, Russia, China — to facilitate the intra-Afghan talks and the Doha process.”

The foreign minister said Pakistan looked forward to the upcoming troika meeting on Aug 11 in Doha. He added that Pakistan had also invited Afghan leaders, “minus the Taliban” to a conference in Islamabad to discuss the way forward, adding that the conference was postponed on Ashraf Ghani’s request.

“We urge all sides to show respect for human rights and international humanitarian laws.”

He said: “The situation is evolving and things have not been managed well … I think the world should ponder and see the amount of money spent [in Afghanistan]. Where is it gone? The lack of will to fight that we have seen in Afghanistan. Can we be held be responsible for that? No we cannot and we should not,” he thundered.

He stressed that Pakistan would not be “apologetic”, adding that “we will articulate our point of view because we have been sincere and honest in attaining peace and stability there.”

World must not be oblivious to Pakistan’s sacrifices

Qureshi asserted that Pakistan had paid a huge price as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan. “Let the world know that Pakistan has been a victim. The price that we have paid has to be understood. We have had close to 80,000 casualties; we have suffered huge economic losses. The world should not be oblivious to that.”

He said that Pakistan had never been supportive of a military takeover, adding that it will result in a lot of bloodshed.

To a question, he said: “Our objectives in Afghanistan are in sync with what the US and the international community is saying.”

We want ‘orderly withdrawal’

The foreign minister said Pakistan had been pressing for a responsible ‘orderly withdrawal’ [of US forces from Afghanistan].

“When you are withdrawing, it must be in a manner that there is no vacuum created within Afghanistan, because what we fear is that if there is a vacuum, terrorist outfits will be a major beneficiary of it. Along with withdrawal, there should be a process of negotiations that will go hand in hand.”

Earlier, he castigated India for not allowing Pakistan to address the UNSC meeting on Afghanistan, saying “India has been in our view in breach of its obligation as president of the security council.”

He also said that an Afghan representative had propagated disinformation and levelled baseless allegations against Pakistan to mislead the international community. “We reject those baseless accusations,” he added.

Responding to another question, Qureshi said Pakistan had been facilitating the peace process. “Our role has been and will continue to be of a facilitator of the Afghan peace process and not that of a guarantor.”

He also underlined that Pakistan had opened five border crossings during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We let stranded Afghans go home and we facilitated transit trade as well. So the idea was to be supportive to their needs,” he explained.

The minister said almost 98 per cent of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan was fenced.