Once supportive of the Taliban, Pakistan has now mounted an about turn, asserting that “Pakistan is not an advocate of Taliban.” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, instead, says that Pakistan is in favour of a peaceful settlement process, and, this has to be an Afghan-led.
“There is a general buzz that we are advocates of the Taliban, I am not. I don’t represent them, I represent Pakistan. The Taliban are Afghans,” he stated categorically at the Pakistan-Afghanistan track-2 dialogue in Islamabad on Monday, which was also attended by the Afghan Ambassador Najibullah Ali Khil.
Qureshi reminded him that Afghan Taliban control 40% to 45% of Afghan territory even in the presence of the US and NATO forces. “It’s a fact. Let’s call a spade a spade,” he added that now it's up to the Afghans to decide which form of government they want, “It is up to you to decide whether Afghanistan should be Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan. Whatever the outcome of peace talks Pakistan will accept.”
Pakistan’s role in backing the Taliban and meddling in Afghanistan is well known and documented. Pakistan has been proudly claiming its great role as a facilitator in the Doha Agreement between the US and Taliban on February 29, 2020 paving the way of Intra-Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and the Ashraf Ghani led Afghan government. But these ongoing talks have failed to even start. Leaders of Afghan government have repeatedly blamed strong bonding between Pakistan and Taliban which had “become a clear reality” over the past one year.
“It’s not just the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, it’s also the withdrawal of foreign fighters from Afghanistan, the Taliban are working closely with and who are involved in destructive activities in our country and… will remain a threat to the region.” said Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib who had termed Pakistan as a “brothel house,” last month. In retaliation Islamabad severed all links with him. Since then, there have been war words between the two neighbours. Qureshi said Afghan officials often resorted to blaming Pakistan for their own failures.
Amid the US troops withdrawal, Pakistan is desperately trying to give its relationship with the Afghans a fresh lease of life. Last month, Qureshi’s visit to the US was aimed at taking the bilateral relations back to the days when Washington’s Af-Pak policy was the “fulcrum” of ties between the two countries.
Pakistan wants a “favourable” government in Afghanistan because of its plan to strengthen commerce with its neighbour, which sits at the cross-roads of South and Central Asia. Also, Islamabad stands to benefit from greater trade with Central Asian markets that are rich in energy resources needed to feed its ambition to grow its industrial base.
Pakistan despises the Ashraf Ghani government, and it has problems with the majority of its members. Last month in an interview, Ghani said it is “a moment of choice” for neighbouring Pakistan as all its calculations have been “wrong” so far and “the question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands.”
Qureshi fears that President Ghani, who is set to travel to Washington later this month along with other Afghan leaders, may use his visit to blame Pakistan once again, “If the objective [behind Ghani’s visit] is to start a new blame game and hold Pakistan responsible for all the ills, I think it will not help. It’s a shared responsibility and no one is going to buy this anymore. We will not take any responsibility. We have been accused enough.” In an oblique reference to India, he says that “there are spoilers within Afghanistan and there are spoilers outside Afghanistan. Many have benefited from the war economy and have vested interests. Let’s not forget that some countries want Pakistan to remain in a two-front situation.”