Islamabad urges Afghan parties to reach settlement

ISLAMABAD: Amid reports of the Taliban having taken complete control of Afghanistan, Pakistan on Monday urged all stakeholders in the neigbouring country to reach a political settlement, respect rule of law, protect human rights and ensure that Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organisation or group against any country.

While describing it as ‘the way forward’, participants in the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting reaffirmed that Pakistan would “continue to work with the international community and all Afghan stakeholders to facilitate an inclusive political settlement” for the representation of all Afghan ethnic groups.

The NSC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the civil and the military leadership, also endorsed US President Joe Biden administration’s decision made during the Donald Trump presidency regarding withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, calling it a “logical conclusion to the conflict”.

The meeting also discussed the measures in place if the situation sparked another influx of Afghan refugees to Pakistan.

An official press release issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) after the meeting said the NSC emphasised that Pakistan remained committed to an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. The PMO stated the meeting, which was attended by chiefs of the armed forces as well as senior cabinet members, also decided that the principle of “non-interference in Afghanistan” must be adhered to.

When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that the meeting minutely reviewed the Afghan situation and called all stakeholders in the neighbouring country for political settlement of the conflict.

The participants in the meeting were apprised of the latest developments in Afghanistan and their possible impact on Pakistan as well as the South Asian region, according to the PMO statement.

So far, “major violence had been averted” during the Taliban’s reclaiming of Kabul, the NSC observed, while asking all parties in Afghanistan to “respect the rule of law, protect fundamental human rights of all Afghans, and ensure that Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organisation/group against any country”.

The NSC emphasized that the international community “must recognise the sacrifices made by Pakistan” over the last four decades, reminding the world that Pakistan being a victim of the Afghan conflict wanted peace and stability in the region. The security committee asserted that there was never a military solution to the Afghanistan conflict. “The ideal time to end the conflict through negotiations might have been when the US/Nato troops were at maximum military strength in Afghanistan. Continuation of foreign military presence for a longer duration now would not have yielded a different outcome,” it observed.

“Therefore, US President Joe Biden administration’s endorsement of the decision made during the Donald Trump presidency — to withdraw all United States troops from Afghanistan — was indeed a logical conclusion to this conflict,” the meeting said.

“It is now time for the international community to work together to ensure an inclusive political settlement for long-term peace, security and development of Afghanistan [and] the region,” it added.

While lauding the ongoing efforts of the Pakistani embassy in Kabul, PM Khan issued order for the repatriation of Pakistani citizens, diplomats, journalists and staff of international organisations operating in Afghanistan.

A day earlier, the Foreign Office said Pakistan was closely following the situation in Afghanistan and would continue to support efforts for political settlement.

“We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal crisis,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a series of tweets. He said the Pakistan embassy in Kabul was extending required assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of PIA flights.

According to him, a special inter-ministerial cell had been established in the Ministry of Interior to facilitate visa and arrival matters for personnel of foreign envoys and officials of United Nations agencies, international organisations, media and others.

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