Pakistan seeks assurance Taliban won’t let territory be used against it

ISLAMABAD: As the Taliban capped a sweeping military campaign marking their return to the throne after two decades of the war on terror, Islamabad sought assurance from the insurgent group that it won’t allow anyone to use Afghanistan’s soil against Pakistan.

Pakistan has long been a victim of terrorism, including foreign-sponsored attacks, perpetrated by militant groups based in, and often supported by, Afghanistan. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, Pakistan experienced 319 terrorism-related incidents and 169 associated deaths of civilians in 2020.

In an interview with TRT World, President Dr Arif Alvi said Islamabad would seek a similar assurance from the Taliban, as it gave to China and the United States, that the soil of Afghanistan won’t be used against Pakistan.

“We would like an assurance […] the ones which were given to China and the United States, that the Afghan territory will never be used against any other country,” the president told host Ayse Suberker.

Alvi was responding to Suberker as she questioned if Pakistan was concerned about resurfacing of militant groups in the neighbouring country after the return of the Taliban.

At this, the president observed the group gave assurances to China and the US and said he expected the same for Pakistan. “On the same principle, I am hopeful that a similar attitude will be there with Pakistan as far as Afghanistan’s new government [is concerned] whatever form it takes,” he said.

He said the international laws mentioned in the charter of the United Nations also supported such conduct.

Alvi said to curb the inflow of militants, Pakistan had fenced its border with Afghanistan.

To a question if Pakistan would recognise the Taliban as the legitimate representative of the people, he said: “Whatever decision the government makes, will happen with the consultation of a number of [international] countries.”

“First, we have to evaluate the situation as it emerges.”

When asked if Pakistan found the Taliban “trustworthy”, Alvi said: “Whoever is in [power in] Afghanistan, we will trust them as our neighbour to ensure peace.”

He termed the American withdrawal from Afghanistan “hasty” but observed Pakistan tried to persuade Washington that a political dialogue, and not war, was a more viable solution.

He regretted that be it the American war in Vietnam or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the world quickly forgot the lessons learnt.

The president pointed out that blaming Pakistan for the situation in Afghanistan had become a trend and stressed the swift change in Afghanistan had shown the world that it was far beyond for the [neighbouring] countries [of Afghanistan] to play any role in stopping the lightening Taliban advances.

“With the US presence of 20 years in Afghanistan, almost two trillion dollars spending and investing hundreds of billions for the development, I think the blame game and finding a scapegoat is easy,” he said.

On Pakistan’s role in bringing stability to the war-torn country, President Alvi said Pakistan looked forward to the resumption of peace in Afghanistan and was ready to play a role in its reconstruction.

He said during the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan was the “biggest loser” after Kabul in terms of suffering the consequences.

“With the return of peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan will be the ‘biggest winner’,” he said, expressing optimism that things would settle down quite fast.

He mentioned that Pakistan was hosting four million Afghan refugees and stressed such a gesture must be considered as a matter of goodwill by Kabul.

President Alvi said Pakistan was in touch with China, Russia, Turkey and the US to pursue the agenda of development of the region.

However, he stressed that India was playing the role of a spoiler and urged it to not use any other territory against Pakistan.

On bilateral relations with Turkey, he expressed satisfaction over the defence cooperation, however stressed more collaboration in economic ties to match the potential.

He mentioned Ankara’s unwavering support to Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir dispute, which he was facing gross human rights violations for decades under the Indian occupation.

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