Recognition of Taliban government has to be ‘collective effort’: Imran

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said the government will not recognise the Taliban government unilaterally as the recognition of the Taliban regime has to be a “collective effort by the countries in the region”.

In an interview with a French media outlet Le Figaro, the premier said: “If Pakistan is the first to grant recognition, the international pressure will become too much for us as we try to turn our economy around.”

“We could no longer pay our debts. We can only recover if we have good relations with the international community. To be isolated by becoming the only state [to recognise the Taliban regime] would be the last thing we would want,” the newspaper cited the PM as saying.

He said, “as for the conditions for such recognition, there is an international consensus that there must be an inclusive government in Afghanistan. There is also the issue of human rights and women’s rights. The Taliban government has made promises on these two issues. What more is needed to make the world satisfied? That is the question.”

According to the prime minister, the Taliban delegation that visited Pakistan in December did not give any “concrete answers” about their commitment to abide by their promises to ensure basic rights for women and minorities.

“There were no concrete answers. They gave an agreement in principle…You can’t force them. There is a limit to what foreign pressure can do to a government like the Taliban. Afghans should not be expected to respect women’s rights as Westerners understand them.”

About girls’ education, the Taliban said they needed time, Imran added.

In a question about the consequences of the Afghan Taliban return to power and its impact on Pakistan’s national security, especially in the light of the recent spike in the attacks claimed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Imran said a stable regime in Afghanistan will weed out terror groups.

“We believe that the more stable the Afghan government is, the less these groups can operate. That is why we are so concerned about the stability of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the Pakistani government trusted the Afghan Taliban “when they say they will not let militants strike from their territory”.

“It is in their interest that regional trade develops from Central Asia through their territory to the Indian Ocean,” PM Imran said, adding that in the 90s, Pakistani transporters were operating freely in Afghanistan.

About a UN report on links between al Qaeda and the Taliban, Imran said: “If terrorists operate from [the] Afghan soil, the Taliban will suffer. It is in their interest to stop international terrorism.”

In response to a question over the US government’s plan to strike terror groups in Afghanistan through an air corridor, Imran said, “we will be partners with the US in peace, not in war.”

Speaking about dialogue with India, Imran said Pakistan wanted good ties with India but talking to New Delhi without restoration of Kashmir’s autonomy would be tantamount to betrayal of Kashmiri people.

“The attitude of the BJP government and the RSS (a right-wing Hindu fundamentalist group) towards Pakistan and Kashmir is worrisome. We are dealing with a government that is not rational, whose ideology is based on hatred of religious minorities and Pakistan. We can’t talk to them. We are at a dead end.”

About Uighurs’ treatment in China, Imran said, “Xinjiang is part of China…It is natural that we would raise our voice in defence of the Kashmiris, especially as one-third of the territory is in Pakistan. Kashmir is directly a matter of concern for Pakistan” as opposed to Xinjiang.

Imran also said France was an important country for Pakistan as “almost half of our exports go to the European Union”.

PM Imran said Pakistan was in the process of appointing an envoy in Paris. “Not in the immediate future. With President Macron, we have spoken twice on the phone in the past and, of course, I want to come to France,” he said in response to a question.

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