Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the neighbours of Afghanistan to formulate a “joint strategy” about when to recongise the Taliban regime, saying Pakistan alone recongising the Taliban government in Kabul won’t make “much difference”.
In a wide-ranging interview with Turkish broadcaster TRT World that aired on Saturday, the premier said the government of Pakistan decided to talk with its neighbours over accepting the Taliban government in Kabul.
“If all the neighbours get together, who are going to be the affected in case of chaos in Afghanistan, and form a joint policy then it will have more impact than simply Pakistan recognising them.”
Read Pakistan urges world community not to isolate Afghan Taliban
The prime minister said preferably, it has to be the US, Europe, Russia, and China whose recognition of the Taliban government in Kabul would make a difference.
“The big question is when is the US going to recognize the Taliban…Sooner or later, they will have to. At the moment, as you can see in the Senate hearing, in the media, there is shock and confusion in the US, they are completely surprised about the outcome of the Taliban coming back to power again.”
“If the US doesn’t defreeze their reserves and the Afghan government collapses and this goes into a chaotic situation, the biggest losers will be the people of Afghanistan. As per the UN estimates, by next year, over 95 per cent of the people will go below the poverty line. So, therefore, they have to come up with a solution. I mean they have to sooner or later think about the people of Afghanistan. Unless that happens, I am afraid, this limbo is, everyday we are losing the Afghan population. The crisis is going to deepen,” added the premier.
Comparing it to the situation after the exit of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the prime minister this time it was a “peaceful transfer of power” that was “very unexpected”. “However, now the problem is this looming humanitarian crisis because the Afghan government was dependent on foreign aid for 70-75 per cent of its budget…unless there is help in the short term…there is a grave danger of collapse of government, chaos and a humanitarian crisis,” he said, adding that in long term, the Taliban government may stand on its own feet.
Speaking about an inclusive Afghan government that would bring “stability in the country”, the PM said: “When we say an inclusive government… we recongise, everyone recongises, even the Taliban would recognise, that Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic group. Pashtuns are round about 50pc of the population then there is a big Tajik minority, then there are Uzbek and Hazara.”
Imran said as a well-wisher of Afghanistan, he would like to see the country stable.
According to the prime minister, the world cannot dictate the Taliban on who to include in the inclusive government as that would be akin to interference in their internal affairs. He said the Taliban do agree that there should be an inclusive government, but they should not be “dictated”.
The PM said Afghanistan was a “decentralised, democratic” society that was difficult to control from the outside. “Anyone who takes power after 20 years of fighting a civil war, people think they have given a lot of sacrifices, now [after] coming to power…even dealing with your own people is a pretty difficult situation right now,” he said, adding that he didn’t know what will happen next but he could only pray for peace in Afghanistan.
Imran reiterated that Pakistan should not be made a scapegoat for failures in Afghanistan and added that Pakistan lost 80,000 people and had over 3.5 million displaced internally, but rather than being appreciated for these sacrifices, Pakistan was blamed for failures in Afghanistan.
In response to a question, if he was pro-Taliban, Imran said he was “anti-military solution”. He said he had opposed the Iraq war, the military operations in the tribal belt of Pakistan to weed out the TTP and the military operation in East Pakistan (now Bangaldesh).
The prime minister said Islamabad and Washington had been constantly in touch with each other.
To a question, he said US president Joe Biden was under a lot of pressure as he was being criticised for the evacuation and the events after.
The prime minister maintained that bilateral ties between the two sides had a long history in which there were ups and downs. He asserted that in Afghanistan, the US’ role was critical as it left the country after twenty years of war and spending over 2 trillion dollars.
“If there was a mess, like after USSR’s forces’ withdrawal during 90s, it could once again result in a bloodbath. If there was chaos in Afghanistan, international terrorist outfits could find safe havens there,” he cautioned.
About ties with Beijing, the prime minister stated that the relations had always been very strong and for the last seventy years, the bilateral relation has stood the test of time.
He said that he frequently held conversations with the Chinese leadership and added that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was heading in the right direction despite the Covid pandemic which had caused disruption throughout the world.