Pakistan says international community can’t ‘turn away’ from reality of Afghan Taliban

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in New York, U.S., September 22, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2021

Pakistan says international community can’t ‘turn away’ from reality of Afghan Taliban

  • Pakistan’s government is proposing global powers develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of Taliban
  • Expectations from Taliban include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls

UNITED NATIONS: Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all, don’t isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to deal with the fledgling government that is suddenly running the country next door once again — Afghanistan’s resurgent, often-volatile Taliban.
Pakistan’s government is proposing that the international community develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban — with incentives if they fulfill its requirements — and then sit down face to face and talk it out with the militia’s leaders.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi outlined the idea Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meeting of world leaders.
“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Qureshi told the AP. “At the same time, the international community has to realize: What’s the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”
He said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Taliban to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country.”
“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”
Expectations from the Taliban leadership could include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls, Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government might be motivated by receiving development, economic and reconstruction aid to help recover from decades of war.
He urged the United States, the International Monetary Fund and other countries that have frozen Afghan government funds to immediately release the money so it can be used “for promoting normalcy in Afghanistan.” And he pledged that Pakistan is ready to play a “constructive, positive” role in opening communications channels with the Taliban because it, too, benefits from peace and stability.
This is the second time that the Taliban, who adhere to a strict version of Islam, have ruled Afghanistan. The first time, from 1996 to 2001, ended when they were ousted by a US-led coalition after the 9/11 attacks, which were directed by Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan.
During that rule, Taliban leaders and police barred girls from school and prohibited women from working outside the home or leaving it without a male escort. After they were overthrown, Afghan women still faced challenges in the male-dominated society but increasingly stepped into powerful positions in government and numerous fields.
But when the US withdrew its military from Afghanistan last month, the government collapsed and a new generation of the Taliban resurged, taking over almost immediately. In the weeks since, many countries have expressed disappointment that the Taliban’s interim government is not inclusive as its spokesman had promised.
While the new government has allowed young girls to attend school, it has not yet allowed older girls to return to secondary school, and most women to return to work despite a promise in April that women “can serve their society in the education, business, health and social fields while maintaining correct Islamic hijab.”
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a long and sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbor that includes attempts to prevent terrorism there and, some say, also encouraging it, which Islamabad denies. The Islamabad government has a fundamental vested interest in ensuring that whatever the new Afghanistan offers, it is not a threat to Pakistan.
That, Qureshi says, requires a steady and calibrated approach.
“It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and that will set the tone for recognition eventually,” the Pakistani minister said. The good news, he said: The Taliban are listening, “and they are not insensitive to what is being said by neighbors and the international community.”
How does he know they’re listening? He says the interim government, drawn mostly from Afghanistan’s dominant Pashtun ethnic group, made some additions on Tuesday. It added representatives from the country’s ethnic minorities — Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are Shiite Muslims in the majority Sunni Muslim country.
“Yes, there are no women yet,” Qureshi said. “But let us let the situation evolve.”
He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in coming days and weeks that will enhance their acceptability.
“What the international community can do, in my view, is sit together and work out a roadmap,” Qureshi said. “And if they fulfill those expectations, this is what the international community can do to help them stabilize their economy. This is the humanitarian assistance that can be provided. This is how they can help rebuild Afghanistan, reconstruction and so on and so forth.”
He added: “With this roadmap ahead, I think an international engagement can be more productive.”
On Wednesday night, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that all five nations — the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France — want “an Afghanistan at peace, stable, where humanitarian aid can be distributed without problems or discrimination.”
He also described a hoped-for “Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls are respected, an Afghanistan that won’t be a sanctuary for terrorism, an Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government representing the different sectors of the population.”
Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community can work out the best way to approach the situation. In the meantime, he asserted, things seem to be stabilizing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, he said, Pakistan has received information that the law-and-order situation has improved, fighting has stopped and many internally displaced Afghans are going home.
“That’s a positive sign,” Qureshi said.
He said Pakistan hasn’t seen a new influx of Afghan refugees — a sensitive issue for Pakistanis, who are highly motivated to prevent it. A humanitarian crisis, a foundering economy and workers who return to jobs and school but aren’t getting salaries and don’t have money could cause Afghans to flee across the porous border into Pakistan, which has suffered economically from such arrivals over decades of conflict.
Qureshi prescribed patience and realism. After all, he says, every previous attempt to stabilize Afghanistan has failed, so don’t expect new efforts to produce immediate success with the Taliban. If the United States and its allies “could not convince them or eliminate them in two decades, how will you do it in the next two months or the next two years?” he wondered.
Asked whether he had a prediction of what Afghanistan might be like in six months, Qureshi turned the question back on his AP interviewer, replying: “Can you guarantee me US behavior over the next six months?”


Remains of Sri Lankan national lynched in Pakistan’s Sialkot flown to Colombo 

Updated 06 December 2021

Remains of Sri Lankan national lynched in Pakistan’s Sialkot flown to Colombo 

  • Priyantha Kumara was publicly attacked and killed by Muslim mob last week over blasphemy allegations 
  • Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s aide promises all those involved in heinous crime will be brought to justice 

ISLAMABAD: The remains of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched in the northeastern Pakistani city of Sialkot last week, were flown to Colombo from Lahore via a SriLankan Airlines flight on Monday, Pakistani officials said.
A Muslim mob on Friday attacked and killed Sri Lankan Priyantha Kumara and burned his body publicly over allegations he had committed blasphemy in the northeastern city of Sialkot.
Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan, and carries the death penalty. International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
Kumara’s remains were transported from Lahore to Colombo via SriLankan Airlines flight UL-186 at 12:30pm on Monday, in the presence of Pakistani and Sri Lankan officials.
“On the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, I am at the airport to send mortal remains of Priyantha Kumara to Sri Lanka with complete state protocol,” Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, special representative of the Pakistani PM on religious harmony, told Arab News.
Ashrafi vowed that all perpetrators of the heinous crime would be brought to justice. “PM Khan is himself overseeing all developments in the investigation. It is not a religious matter, but the people who were involved used not only religion but defamed it too.”
Pakistan’s acting high commissioner Tanvir Ahmed will be at the Colombo airport along with Sri Lankan officials to receive Kumara’s remains, according to the Pakistani high commission in Colombo.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said what happened in Sialkot should not have happened, describing the lynching as a “painful” tragedy.
“No society allows such incidents. The Sialkot incident is under investigation and 118 people have been arrested,” he said in a statement on Monday.
“Sri Lankan government is satisfied with the steps taken by Pakistani government after the incident and wants those responsible to be punished. We are also trying to bring those responsible to justice.”
Qureshi said both the government and the society had a role to play in stopping such extremism.


Rain delays third day’s play in Bangladesh-Pakistan Test 

Updated 06 December 2021

Rain delays third day’s play in Bangladesh-Pakistan Test 

  • Only 63.2 overs of play were possible over the first two days 
  • Pakistan reached 188-2, with Babar Azam batting on 71 not out 

DHAKA: Rain triggered by a weakened cyclone delayed the start of the third day’s play in the second Test between Bangladesh and Pakistan in Dhaka on Monday.
Only 63.2 overs of play were possible over the first two days with Pakistan reaching 188-2 in their first innings, with skipper Babar Azam batting on 71 not out alongside Azhar Ali, 52 not out.
Taijul Islam picked both wickets to fall at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Pakistan lead the two-Test series 1-0 after winning the first Test in Chittagong by eight wickets.


FM Qureshi leaves for Belgium for sixth round of Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue 

Updated 6 min 47 sec ago

FM Qureshi leaves for Belgium for sixth round of Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue 

  • He will co-chair the dialogue with EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell 
  • EU is one of largest trade and investment partners of Pakistan with a volume of $10.883 billion 

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be visiting Belgium from December 6 to 8 to co-chair the sixth round of Pakistan-European Union Strategic Dialogue, the Pakistani foreign office said on Sunday.
Pakistan and Belgium enjoy cordial and friendly relations, based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, mutual respect and close cooperation.
Over the years, the partnership has grown stronger in diverse fields, including political, economic, trade, education and culture, and people-to-people contacts. With a trade volume of $982 million, Belgium is the fifth largest trading partner of Pakistan in the EU.
The foreign minister is visiting Brussels on the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium Sophie Wilmes, the foreign office said in a statement.
“As a key component of the visit, the foreign minister will co-chair the 6th round of Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue with EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell,” the statement read.
“The European Union is one of the largest trade and investment partners of Pakistan and the current volume of bilateral trade stands at US $10.883 billion. Pakistan’s relations with EU are manifested in frequent and close engagements through structured dialogues.”
The two sides signed the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) in June 2019, which provides solid framework and blue print for future cooperation. This would be the first in-person session of the strategic dialogue since the signing of the landmark SEP, according to the foreign office.
It follows the seventh round of Pakistan-EU Political Dialogue, which was virtually co-chaired by Pakistani Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and EU Deputy Secretary-General Enrique Mora on December 3.


Pakistani government to hold parliamentary meeting on national security today despite opposition’s boycott 

Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistani government to hold parliamentary meeting on national security today despite opposition’s boycott 

  • The joint opposition last week announced that it would boycott the meeting
  • Minister says government presenting policy before parliament first time in decades

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government will hold an in-camera meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security today despite the opposition’s boycott, local media reported on Monday, with the information minister saying this is the first time in seven decades that a government would present its national security policy before parliament.
The joint opposition had last week announced that it would boycott the meeting convened by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday for a presentation by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Dr. Moeed Yusuf on the national security policy, the Dawn newspaper reported.
“The speaker has invited more than 50 members, including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and senior officials of the ministries concerned to attend the meeting on one-point agenda — presentation on national security policy,” the report read.
The decision regarding the opposition’s boycott was announced by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement.
She said the decision to boycott the in-camera meeting was made because of the government’s attitude of bulldozing important draft bills in the recently held joint sitting of parliament and its “persistent authoritarian approach” on important constitutional, legal, national and security issues.
When contacted, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain regretted the opposition’s decision to boycott the national security committee’s meeting, requesting it to review it, according to the report.
He said for the first time in the past seven decades, a government was presenting its national security policy before parliament. He was of the view that the opposition should not do politics on an issue related to the country’s national security.
In response to a question, the minister said the NSA would present the national security policy with regard to external affairs and keeping in view the prevailing regional situation. This policy would then be presented before the federal cabinet for approval, he added.


Islamabad, Riyadh sign accords to enhance protection, job security for Pakistanis in kingdom 

Updated 06 December 2021

Islamabad, Riyadh sign accords to enhance protection, job security for Pakistanis in kingdom 

  • The agreements encompass mutually acceptable recruitment, deployment and repatriation systems for Pakistani workers 
  • Saudi Arabia is home to over 2.5 million Pakistani expats and one of the largest remittance sources for the South Asian nation 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday signed two agreements on worker recruitment and skill verification to enhance the protection and job security of Pakistani nationals in the kingdom, the Pakistani foreign office said.
Saudi Arabia is home to over 2.5 million Pakistani expatriates and one of the largest sources of remittance to the South Asian nation.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s education minister Shafqat Mahmood arrived in Riyadh on a four-day visit on the invitation of his Saudi counterpart Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh.
The agreement on recruitment of workers was signed by the Saudi Deputy Minister for International Affairs Dr. Adnan bin Abdullah Alnuaim and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Lt. Gen. (retired) Bilal Akbar.
The agreement “encompassed a mutually acceptable recruitment, deployment and repatriation system for Pakistani workers seeking employment in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” a draft available with Arab News said.
Besides compliance of applicable laws, rules and regulations, the agreement ensures better job security and dispute resolution mechanism for Pakistani workers, and protection from exploitation at the hands of employers.
“The Agreement on Workers’ Recruitment will contribute toward further streamlining the process of export of workforce from Pakistan in diverse professions in the Kingdom, while safeguarding their due rights and providing comprehensive legal protection to Pakistani workers employed in Saudi Arabia,” the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement.

 


“The agreement will also help in resolving contractual disputes and taking legal recourse against recruitment offices, companies or agencies for any violation.”
The agreement on skill verification program covers the certification of skills and required qualifications of Pakistani workers seeking employment in the Kingdom.
It requires “conduct of theoretical and practical tests in fields of specialization, components of force majeure and resolution of disputes and intellectual property right issues of the workers,” the draft read.
The Pakistani foreign office said the agreement on skill verification would “enhance export of skilled and certified Pakistani workforce to the Kingdom.” 
“Certification for our skilled manpower will create opportunities for technical workforce in Pakistan to get internationally recognized trainings and certifications,” it said.
The signing of these agreements paves the way to build strategic partnerships and complementary relations between Pakistani and Saudi ministries, the draft added.