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Pakistan says “only facilitator not guarantor” of Afghan peace

ISAMABAD: In wake of on-going efforts of establishing peace in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US forces, Pakistan says that it wants peace in that region as it is directly related to its own peace and stability. Though, different fractions of Taliban have rejected Pakistan’s proposals and efforts and say that they want set-up peace themselves and don’t need help of Pakistan. Clarifying the policy of the government, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar has said that the Afghan peace process has many aspects where it should be understood that Pakistan is only a facilitator and not a guarantor in the process.

ISPR Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar

In an interview, he said that the main stay of resolution to the matter is on different factions of Afghans who would have to decide the future course of the issue. “The peace process is at a critical stage and as far as Pakistan is concerned, it took efforts to take peace process sincerely with core vision of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” he said. “In past 20 years, US army trained Afghan National Army that has strength, capability and its own air force with presence on ground. The Afghan National Army is trained, equipped and has special and air forces,” he further said. “Trillions of dollars have been spent on them and as a professional soldier, I believe that they should be able to fight this onslaught as a professional force,” he maintained. “They have the capacity and despite that if they do not withstand, then its reasons to be guided through internal dynamics and ground complexities,” he added. “We need to understand that it would be Afghans own decision and would not be dictated by any foreign party.”

Responding to another query, he said the US has withdrawn and their allied forces have left. “They will completely leave by 31 August, whereas the stakeholders in the region will have to decide the issue in consultation with Afghan leadership,” he said, adding that the counter strategy has long been discussed and the world has observed that Pakistan has very sincerely took the peace process forward. “Pakistan has no favourites among Afghan stakeholders. The decisions to be taken by Afghans and they have to decide their leadership … in case of any deadlock, we can assist,” he said. “Pakistan has made all-out efforts and cannot exceed beyond limits. Afghans have the capacity and capability to decide their future course themselves,” he added.

Armed men attend a gathering to announce their support for Afghan security forces, on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The ISPR DG was of the view that the gun (force) is not the solution to resolve Afghan crisis. “Through gun, the issue could not be decided during past two decades and it is not an option in the future as well,” he said.

Referring to the armed conflict taking place in Afghanistan among Taliban and Afghan forces, he said this is just a phase and decision could be made only through dialogue. He said Pak-Afghan border security and management has been beefed up and the 2611km stretch of the border is 90% fenced whereas the leftover places are either high-altitude or glaciated. “However, forts have been built with proper mechanisms and Frontier Corps (FC) new wings developed to manage the posts,” he added.

The ISPR DG said the spillover effect after civil war may come to Pakistan like it had come in the past. “We are very well aware of that and have taken many measures to cope with the situation,” he said. “Daesh and TTP groups are based in Afghanistan and attacking Pakistan’s armed forces whereas we bore casualties during border fencing,” he said. “The mechanism for Afghan border fencing is better now and the armed forces are very well prepared,” he added. “God Willing, we should be able to take care of this situation.”

A files picture shows Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (left) talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Islamabad.

Replying to another query on impending Afghan refugee influx in case of any civil war, he said the interior ministry has made a contingency plan to manage refugee inflow in case of violence whereas the international community and regional stakeholders will have to decide the Afghan issue. He noted that Pakistan’s approach has been very clear as it remains committed to never let its soil be used against anybody. “Unfortunately, there has been no serious effort made by the international and Afghan forces to contain terrorist activities against Pakistan,” he lamented.

Major General Babar maintained that the responsible withdrawal means a meaningful exodus of the US forces after a complete transition which is the demand of all stakeholders. “Indian investment in Afghanistan is aimed at establishing its influence to damage Pakistan’s interests, however, after the prevailing scenario, there is huge frustration on the Indian side,” he said. “Currently, New Delhi’s focus is towards damaging Pakistan and it has moved its spoilers in different directions to blame Pakistan for the unrest in Afghanistan whereas the world has realized that Pakistan did earnest efforts to resolve Afghan issue as per local masses’ aspirations,” he added.