ISLAMABAD: Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday Islamabad would be participating in a ‘troika meeting’ on Afghanistan to be held in Doha on August 11 and attended by the United States, China and Russia, regretting that Pakistan was being made a “scapegoat” for mistakes committed by other nations in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Afghan Taliban insurgents have taken dozens of districts and border crossings in recent months and put pressure on several provincial capitals, including Herat and Kandahar in the south, as foreign troops withdraw.
“Pakistan has joined the troika which is Russia, United States and China to facilitate intra-Afghan talks,” Qureshi told reporters, referring to stalled talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government. “We look forward to the upcoming troika meeting on August 11 in Doha.”
He said the peace process in Afghanistan was at a critical juncture, urging that all stakeholders focus on helping to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement through a process that was Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
Qureshi also urged the Afghan government to refrain from blame games and engage with Pakistan to resolve issues.
“I have invited the Afghan foreign minister formally in writing to visit Islamabad and raise the issues that he has in mind, so that as neighbors we can discuss and resolve them,” the foreign minister said, adding that it was unfortunate that Pakistan was being “scapegoated” for the failures of others.
He reiterated that Pakistan did not support a military takeover in Afghanistan, but his country’s role in the conflict was only as a facilitator, and not a guarantor.
Qureshi said Pakistan had urged the United States not to abandon Afghanistan as it would create a power vacuum in the war-torn country.
“We are seriously concerned about the growing violence and lack of substantive progress in the intra Afghan negotiations,” the Pakistani leader said. “We are also concerned on the reports of the human rights violations and urge all sides to show full respect for human rights and international humanitarian laws.”
Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators started last year in the Qatari capital of Doha, but have not made any substantive progress.
Moeed Yusuf A protracted war in neighbouring Afghanistan is Pakistan’s “nightmare scenario,” the country’s national security adviser said Monday, slamming the relentless blaming of Islamabad for the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
The US needs to take the lead to get the Afghan government and the Taliban back to the negotiation table, Moeed Yusuf told foreign journalists in the Pakistani capital.
As the August 31 deadline for the final withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan approaches, Yusuf called for “a reinvigorated, re-emphasized, rejuvenated effort to try and get Afghan political actors … in one room … to get to a settlement of how to move forward.”
“Anything but an inclusive political settlement means a protracted conflict, through which instability will likely spill over into Pakistan,” he said. “So our nightmare scenario is a protracted conflict.”
He said Pakistan is pushing the Taliban to return to negotiations but its leverage is waning as the insurgent group gains more ground in Afghanistan.
Pakistan hasn’t even been able to convince the Taliban to reopen the border crossing at Spin Boldak in southeastern Afghanistan, which the insurgent force captured last month, Yusuf said.
In their sweep through Afghanistan, which began with the late April start of the final withdrawal of US and NATO troops, the Taliban have gained control of strategic and lucrative border crossings, including the Spin Boldak crossing with Pakistan.
Last weekend the Taliban closed the crossing in southeast Afghanistan after Islamabad demanded that Afghans crossing to the Pakistani side have a passport and a Pakistani visa, something that had not previously been required. The Taliban accused Pakistan of imposing the new rules to please Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani.
They shuttered the border, insisting Pakistan reinstate an earlier lax policy under which the thousands who cross daily were rarely required to show even local identity cards. As a result, thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis are stuck at the border and hundreds of trucks loaded with perishable goods have been waiting to cross.
Yusuf said Pakistan, which already hosts about 2 million Afghan refugees, hasn’t got the resources to absorb a fresh wave of refugees. The government fears that will happen if fighting continues and the sides don’t return to the negotiating table.