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We cannot-should not be held responsible for failures in Afghanistan: Shah Mahmood

05 October, 2018

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WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said it was unfair to blame Pakistan alone for failures in Afghanistan. “We cannot and should not be held responsible for the failures in Afghanistan, whether it’s poor governance, corruption or disunity within the Afghan government,” he said while addressing a seminar at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC.

Speaking on the final day of his 10-day official trip to the United States that involved high-level meetings with US officials including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, Qureshi said Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war had been at the centre of discussions during all his meetings.

Qureshi pledged that Pakistan would use all its influence with the Taliban to support the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. However, he decried the assertion that it was Pakistan’s responsibility alone, adding that all stakeholders in the region should be collectively responsible for bringing peace to the war-ravaged country. He that although Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban has been ‘diminished’, it will endeavour to do what it can. “However, it will not be because of any pressure by the US but because it is our self-interest to do so,” he said, adding that peace and stability in Pakistan is linked to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The US and Afghanistan have long asserted that Taliban sanctuaries on Pakistani territory have allowed the Taliban to operate and carry out attacks on US and Afghan forces.

Qureshi vehemently rejected this assertion, saying Pakistan’s security forces have dismantled the safe havens and “now it is in fact Pakistan that is concerned for its safety from anti- Pakistan safe havens operating inside Afghanistan under your (US) watch.” He explained how he reached the conclusion that “[my country’s] bilateral relations with the United States are dependent on the improvement of the situation in Afghanistan.”

Qureshi said he understood the importance that Kabul had in the relationship with the United States. “It helped me conclude that the road to Washington passes through Kabul and that’s why I chose Kabul as my first destination after becoming the foreign minister,” he said.

When asked by Associate Vice President of Asia Centre at the US Institute of Peace Moeed Yusuf as to whether Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s objective for the trip had been achieved, Qureshi responded it was also an achievement if he was able to halt the slide downwards in the fraught bilateral relationship. “We have to trust each other … there is no other way,” he said.

Speaking with Pakistani media following the seminar, Qureshi said the two countries had made ‘significant progress’ in the relationship. He said he witnessed a ‘visible change’ in how the US carried out talks with Pakistan this time. He expressed his pleasant surprise that Pompeo and other US politicians were ‘ready to listen to what Pakistan had to say’. This, he said, was in stark contrast to previous meetings he had held while minister of foreign affairs under the previous administration of Pakistan People’s Party.

He said following the US delegation’s visit to Pakistan last month, Washington now understood that Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership were unified in their message in the war on terror and their support for peace in Afghanistan. “We told the US that peace in Afghanistan was not possible without progress in Pakistan,” he said. “We do not deny the importance of Afghanistan but the US-Pakistan relationship should not be viewed through the prism of Afghanistan,” he added.

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