Pakistan supportive ally of US: Shah Mahmood Qureshi

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NEW YORK/LONDON: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Sunday said Pakistan was a ‘supportive ally’ of the United States both during the US-led war in Afghanistan and the abrupt US pullout.

In an interview with The New York Times, he said any notion that Pakistan had worked against the United States was misinformed. Qureshi said he had seen indications of improved stability in Afghanistan since the US withdrawal nearly a month ago after 20 years of war and occupation.

He said to his surprise, there had been no sign of a feared descent into a civil war in Afghanistan over the Taliban’s victory nor had Pakistan seen an influx of Afghan citizens across the border.

Qureshi said Taliban were not unaware of the international community’s expectations concerning their standard of behaviour. “Obviously, they will be judged. I think they are beginning to understand,” he said. Qureshi said Afghanistan's ambassador in the United Nations from the toppled regime had no standing and that the country’s seat at the UN should remain vacant for now.

Ghulam Isaczai, who so far remains the officially recognized envoy of Afghanistan at the UN, is listed to speak in the General Assembly on Monday (today) when the 193-member body concludes its high-level debate.

Isaczai was appointed by former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani a couple of months before the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban have requested that Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Doha, replace Isaczai and be permitted to speak at the General Assembly. Qureshi said it remained to be seen whether the Taliban’s request was justified.

But he also said Isaczai’s right to represent Afghanistan at the United Nations was not defensible because his government had collapsed and its president, Ashraf Ghani, had fled abroad. “Who is he speaking for?” Qureshi asked. The best short-term solution for Afghanistan’s UN seat, he said, was keep it empty.

He also dismissed the idea of even talking to Isaczai. “What good would it do? To me, he’s of no use” he said. Meanwhile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in an emailed message that ‘as for now, the Afghanistan representative inscribed on the list for Monday was Ghulam M. Isaczai.

The question over who should be Afghanistan’s rightful representative at the United Nations is to be taken up by the General Assembly’s Credentials Committee — a nine-member group that includes China, Russia and the United States.

The committee is not expected to address the question until October or later, according to the report. “While Pakistan is not on the committee, Mr. Qureshi’s views on the matter are important because his country is one of Afghanistan’s most influential neighbours, with significant impact on its trajectory under Taliban control,” wrote correspondent Rick Gladstone, who interviewed the foreign minister before his departure for London on Saturday.

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