Pakistan for keeping watch on Afghan peace spoilers

Says it's now up to Afghan leaders to take forward the peace deal

By: News Desk      Published: 03:51 PM, 1 Mar, 2020
Pakistan for keeping watch on Afghan peace spoilers

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday stressed the need for keeping an eye on the ‘spoilers’ in and outside Afghanistan who want to undermine the peace agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban in Doha on Saturday.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, Qureshi said the real test of making the peace agreement successful will start now. “I discussed with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting in Doha the possibility that many elements will try to hurt the peace deal. The US needs to play a role here too so that no one can derail the peace deal.”

Qureshi, who attended the Doha peace accord signing ceremony, said another issue which looms large on the peace deal is the internal differences among the Afghan political leaders. “A durable peace is now in the hands of the Afghan leaders. Their internal differences should not be allowed to eclipse the peace agreement. A US role in this regard is also a must.”

Qureshi said it is yet to be seen how much flexibility the Afghan leaders would show to accommodate each other for a peaceful future.

The foreign minister said he also told Secretary Pompeo that now Afghanistan should be given the support in the form of financial assistance for its reconstruction and the safe return of Afghan refugees, living in Pakistan.

Qureshi said the people of Afghanistan will breathe a sigh of relief following this agreement signed yesterday. But in the same breath, he said: “It depends upon the leadership of Afghanistan (whether or not peace persists).”

“We have yet to see if the concerned parties fulfil their commitments agreed yesterday,” said Qureshi, adding “The world is watching if the Taliban detach themselves from Al-Qaeda or any other organization involved in extremist activities. It is yet to see if the Taliban fulfil their promise of not allowing the Afghan soil for the export of terror.”

However, the foreign minister said that by observing a weeklong “reduction of violence” successfully in Afghanistan, the Taliban have shown their willingness for peace.

About the post-war scenario, Qureshi said: “Now it all depends on the Afghan leadership to devise a roadmap for the future of their country as it is an internal matter.”

He said that the people want peace but it depends on the leadership, adding “Let’s see how they regain the trust of their people.”

Qureshi said “It is now the time to show flexibility and now it’s the test of the Afghan leadership whether it prefers personal interests to the national interests, or thinks about the peace of Afghanistan. But it’s only their decision to make, and only time will tell.”

About Pakistan’s role for the regional peace, the minister said, “You’ll be happy to know that yesterday’s environment was filled with gratitude for Pakistan’s role as the facilitator.” He said even the critics praised Pakistan yesterday.

Qureshi said that he spoke to Secretary Pompeo after the signing of the agreement and put a few points before him. “I told him it is essential to identify the role of the spoilers as there are certain elements always ready to sabotage the peace process. I told him to devise a mechanism to preempt such spoilers from obstructing the peace in Afghanistan.”

“I also suggested to Mike Pompeo to continue the momentum gained through this grand sitting that witnessed the signing of the peace agreement,” adding that there should be no further delay in the intra-Afghan dialogue as it would reaffirm people’s faith in the process, reflecting the intention of the concerned parties.

“Because the optics have certain value too. As you see the yesterday’s sitting in Doha was not a one-day process instead it was made possible after the months-long toil. Certainly, it had its optics.”

Alluding to the internal political crisis in Afghanistan in the wake of the recent presidential election in the country whose delayed result was disputed by Ashraf Ghani’s rival Abdullah Abdullah, Qureshi said: “We can’t ignore it either.”

However, he said that it is not Pakistan’s intention to intrude into the internal matters of Afghanistan, “But the US should look into it that any internal crisis should not sabotage the whole peace process.”

Suggesting to the international community, the minister said “It is the need of the hour to mobilise the international support on Afghanistan as the post-war construction needs immense resources.

In addition to the US Secretary Pompeo, the foreign minister said he met the leaders of the Central Asian states too. He said that the next step for Pakistan is to boost relations with these states. “I spoke to them if peace returns to Afghanistan, we’ll be benefiting from its dividends. We also discussed to enhance regional cooperation.”

When a journalist asked about the strategic depth talk, the minister said it is obsolete now and that Pakistan has to move on. About the alleged Indian influence in Afghanistan in the past, Qureshi said “We nurture good feelings for Afghanistan and in return expect good from them,” adding that Afghanistan will not allow any country, including India, to use its soil against Pakistan.

About Pakistan’s stake in this whole process, the minister said “Pakistan’s peace is linked to the peace in Afghanistan,” adding that if peace returns our mutual trade will increase not only with Afghanistan but also we will have the access route to the Central Asian states.

Talking about the possible irritants in the Afghan peace process, the minister said “We had it discussed in yesterday’s meeting in which I told the world leaders to be careful of the spoilers without naming anyone. Pakistan also told the world how to keep them at bay from the reconstruction process in Afghanistan.”

“It is incumbent on all the global leaders to keep an eye on those spoilers,” said Qureshi, adding that even the spoilers will have to realise now that their vested interests should no longer come at the expense of the Afghan peace.

About the 19-year-long war, the longest war of the US against any country, the foreign minister said this war benefited no one and it only left thousands of corpses on both sides.

Reviewing yesterday’s agreement cautiously, Qureshi said “Even yesterday’s agreement doesn’t guarantee any future smoothness,” adding there are many hiccups and irritants ahead.

About the internal security situation, he said: “Now the tribal belt is secure as Pakistan defeated those extremist elements that had at one time ruined the peace of our country.”

The minister said that now people can see the amalgamation of the tribal belt into mainstream politics. He said the process of erecting fences on the Durand Line is underway, “Once the process is completed, we’ll be in a better position to check the infiltration of the extremists into Pakistan.”

About the most notorious mantra of “Do More,” Qureshi said “There is no more of any do more demand from anyone as we have done our part of the play. Now we will see our national interests only.”

When a journalist connected the Afghanistan peace process with that of Kashmir, the minister said: “Kashmir is a serious though complicated issue on which Pakistan wants a serious development.” He said that the world is also more serious on Kashmir as the UN Secretary General had recently seconded our stance that Kashmir is not an internal matter of India and should be viewed in the light of the resolutions passed at the UN Security Council.