ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office on Wednesday moved to cool a row between Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying reported comments by Prime Minister Imran Khan that Kabul should set up an interim government to help smooth peace talks with the Taliban were reported “out of context.”
Khan told Pakistani journalists on Monday that forming an interim Afghan government would smooth peace talks between US and Taliban officials since the militant group refuses to speak to the current government, according to comments published in The Express Tribune.
The report sparked a furious reaction in Afghanistan and led to the government recalling its ambassador to Islamabad in protest at what it described as “irresponsible” remarks by Khan.
The foreign office said that Khan’s comments reported were “out of context by the media, leading to unwarranted reactions from various quarters.”
“In his comments, the PM had referred to Pakistan’s model where elections are held under an interim government. The comments should not be misinterpreted to imply interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs,” the foreign office statement said. “Pakistan has no other interest in Afghanistan but to promote peace through an ‘Afghan owned’ and ‘Afghan led’ political process.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani faces a re-election battle this year after his term expires in May. The election has already been postponed twice but they are now due to take place on Sept. 28.
In Pakistan, elections are overseen by a neutral caretaker government appointed a few months before polls.
The foreign office statement said Khan had taken a personal interest in facilitating ongoing peace talks between U.S. and Taliban officials to end the 17-year war. The Taliban considers the Afghan government led by President Ghani illegitimate and has so far refused direct talks.
The statement said Pakistan’s efforts for peace is Afghanistan must not be misconstrued at a crucial stage of the peace process.