Tashkent: Imran Khan expressed disappointment on Friday over remarks made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about Islamabad’s ‘negative role’ in the Afghan peace process. Speaking at the International Conference on South Asia-Central Asia Regional Connectivity-Challenges and Opportunities in Tashkent, Imran Khan said, ‘To blame Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan and with the Taliban is not fair’.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said regional peace and stability were of utmost importance for enhancing trade and economic cooperation in the region. ‘Afghanistan is a natural land bridge between Central Asia and South Asia, and peace in Afghanistan is a critical factor for regional connectivity,’ he said. According to Imran Khan, Pakistan’s number one priority is stability in Afghanistan as it directly affects the country. ‘Pakistan will continue to support all peace and reconciliation initiatives in Afghanistan,’ he said.
‘President Ghani, let me just say that it is Pakistan that will be most adversely affected by the turmoil in Afghanistan. Pakistan has suffered 70,000 casualties over the last 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is another conflict,’ he added. As a result of the unrest in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Prime Minister talked about Pakistan’s economic losses. Pakistan’s economy is finally recovering after undergoing a difficult period, Khan said. ‘We don’t want turbulence in Afghanistan’.
He claimed that no country has tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table for dialogue. ‘We have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement [in Afghanistan]. He said that he would not have visited Kabul in November 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’. Referring to the unresolved disputes in the region, he said Kashmir was the core issue of conflict between Pakistan and India. He added that a huge potential of cooperation remains untapped because of unresolved disputes in the region.
Khan and his generals repeatedly assured Afghans that the Taliban is not supported by networks and organizations, but is celebrating the destruction of Afghan people and State assets and capabilities. According to him, Pakistan has assured him that a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is not in its interest, and that, short of using force, it will use its power and influence to force the Taliban to negotiate seriously.
Ghani said intelligence estimates show over 10,000 Jihadis arrived from Pakistan and elsewhere in the past month, as well as support from transnational terrorist organizations. There is a consensus among credible international observers that they have not severed ties with terrorist organizations, he said. With Imran Khan reiterating, again and again, Pakistan’s peaceful intentions it does exactly the opposite. A day after Amrullah Saleh, Vice President of Afghanistan accused Pakistan of supporting Taliban, Imran evaded questions on air support to the Taliban by Pakistan. Mr. Saleh had tweeted on Thursday that,’ The Pakistan Air Force has issued official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force’.