EU should support Pakistan in rehabilitation of Afghan refugees: Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday gave a robust response to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s allegation about Pakistan’s “negative role” in the Afghan peace process and said it was “extremely unfair” to blame Islamabad for the situation in Afghanistan.

Fearing influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan due to growing violence in the neighbouring country, the prime minister called upon the European Union (EU) and international community to support Pakistan in the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees.

He also said Pakistan’s connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral spheres would connect Central Asian states with the rest of the world.

The prime minister expressed these views at the international conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” during his two-day visit to Uzbekistan. President Ghani was also present at the conference.

The prime minister met the Afghan president on the sidelines of the conference but the body language of the former showed that he was quite ‘reserved’ while meeting Mr Ghani.

President Ghani, who spoke before Prime Minister Khan at the conference, had alleged that 10,000 militants sneaked into Afghanistan from Pakistan to create unrest there.

While terming the statement ‘extremely unfair’, PM Khan said: “Due to the Afghan conflict, Pakistan is the worst affected country and it was unfair to blame Pakistan for turmoil in Afghanistan.”

“President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict,” the premier said as he stopped reading from his written speech.

He said after withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban were hopeful for their win in the current war in the neighbouring country, adding that why Taliban would come for dialogue when they were sensing victory in their country.

“Taliban are no longer willing to compromise after the United States gave a date for the withdrawal of troops. When there were 150,000 Nato troops [...] that was the time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given [...] why would they listen to us (Pakistan) when they are sensing victory,” he added.

After the meeting, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen Faiz Hamid, who accompanied the prime minister, told the media that not from Pakistan but violation of border was being committed from Afghanistan and Pakistan security forces were being targeted.

The prime minister said Pakistan’s economy was finally recovering after going through a difficult phase. “I repeat the last thing we want is turbulence in Afghanistan. No country has tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table for dialogue. We have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement [in Afghanistan],” he added.

He reminded the Afghan president that he would not have visited Kabul in November last year if Pakistan had not been interested in peace. “The whole idea was to look upon Pakistan as a partner in peace. I feel disappointed that we have been blamed for what is going on in Afghanistan,” Mr Khan remarked.

He said the current situation in Afghanistan was the result of longstanding conflict and the US efforts to seek a military solution to it.

He also said he had a conversation with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about how all the neighbours in the region could facilitate the Afghan peace process.

“It is in all of our interests,” he reiterated.

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