ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan has “no favourites” in Afghanistan and it would support any government in the neighbouring country chosen by the Afghans themselves.
“We do not have any favourites in Afghanistan. Our policy is that whoever the people of Afghanistan choose, Pakistan will have the best relationship with them,” the prime minister said in response to a question of an Afghan journalist, here at the PM House.
A delegation of journalists from Afghanistan, currently in Pakistan to participate in the Pak-Afghan Media Conclave in Islamabad.
The prime minister said Pakistan was no longer pursuing its 90s’ policy of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan as his government strongly believed that “Afghanistan can never be controlled from outside”.
To a question on Taliban killing Afghans, the prime minister said, “What Taliban are doing or not doing, has nothing to do with Pakistan.”
“We are not responsible, neither we are spokesperson for Taliban,” he categorically stated.
He said there were three million Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan and pointed out that keeping a vigil on the 25,000 to 30,000 of them daily crossing over to Afghanistan and returned, was a huge challenge.
He termed as “unfortunate’ the recent statements from the Afghan government officials accusing Pakistan of supporting Taliban.
“No country has ever tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the dialogue table – first with the Americans and then with Afghan government,” he said, and mentioned that the efforts were also acknowledged by U.S. Special Representative Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
“Hold us responsible only when the Afghan refugees return back to their homeland,” he said, referring to the porous Pak-Afghan border, of which Pakistan had completed 90 percent of its fencing to stop infiltration.
Imran Khan said a political compromise between the Afghan government and the Taliban to form an inclusive government was the only solution to achieve peace. “All we want is peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Imran Khan said he always opposed a military solution of Afghanistan, but the political one.
Asked if military establishment shaped Pakistan’s foreign policy, he said, it was India that unfortunately perpetuated such feelings among Afghans.
“Whatever foreign policy we have has been part of our party’s manifesto for the past 25 years,” he said.
On India, he said, the Pakistan army fully backed the government’s initiatives of maintaining peace with the neighbouring country.
“It is India that refused to have peace as it is controlled by the RSS ideology, which is anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim,” he said.
To a question if Pakistan, Afghanistan and India could hold a trilateral meeting to resolve their “longstanding issues”, he said Pakistan would not be ready for such an arrangement until India reverts its illegal act of August 5, 2019 where it had changed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The prime minister said Pakistan was concerned for peace in Afghanistan because the country’s economic strategies greatly depended on it.
A peaceful Afghanistan, he said, could act as a corridor for Pakistan’s trade route to Central Asian states and could also benefit from Pakistan’s Gwadar seaport.
He feared that a continued civil war between Taliban and the Afghan government would certainly spill over to Pakistan’s tribal areas leading to an influx of refugees.
“Pakistan cannot afford such a situation and for this reason is trying its best for a political solution in Afghanistan,” he added.
On investigation of the “alleged abduction” of the daughter of Afghan ambassador in Islamabad, he said, “Her account about taxi drivers does not tally with what the [CCTV] cameras showed”.
A team would be arriving from Afghanistan and the government would share all information with it, he said.
On promoting cricket collaboration between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said the Afghan team improved in such a short span of time.
“They learnt it [cricket] in the refugee camps here, so it is remarkable,” he said.
On the future of Pak-Afghan relationship, he said it would “get stronger with every passing year”.
“Once the situation in Afghanistan calms down, which we pray for, we would have our best ties,” he said.