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• Says Afghan turmoil will affect Pakistan the most
• Seeks EU support for the peace process
• Tells Indian media that RSS is an obstacle to talks
• Conditions linked to Uzbekistan “beginning of prosperity”

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday gave a strong response to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s claim about Pakistan’s “negative role” in the Afghan peace process and said it was “extremely unfair” to blame Islamabad for the situation in Afghanistan.

Fearing the influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan due to growing violence in the neighboring country, the Prime Minister called on the European Union (EU) and the international community to support Pakistan in the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees.

He also said that Pakistan’s connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral fields would link the Central Asian states with the rest of the world.

The Prime Minister expressed these views at the international conference on “Regional connectivity in Central and South Asia: challenges and opportunities” during its two days visit to Uzbekistan. President Ghani was also present at the conference.

The Prime Minister met the Afghan president on the sidelines of the conference but the body language of the former showed that he was quite “reserved” when he met Mr. Ghani.

President Ghani, who spoke to Prime Minister Khan at the conference, alleged that 10,000 militants had snuck into Afghanistan from Pakistan to create unrest.

While calling the statement “extremely unfair,” Prime Minister Khan said: “Due to the Afghan conflict, Pakistan is the most affected country and it was unfair to blame Pakistan for the unrest in Afghanistan.”

“President Ghani, let me just say that the country that will be most affected by the unrest in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan has suffered 70,000 casualties over the past 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict, ”the prime minister said as he stopped reading his written speech.

He said that after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban hoped for victory in the current war in the neighboring country, adding that this was the reason why the Taliban would come to dialogue as they felt victory. in their country.

“The Taliban are no longer willing to compromise after the United States gives a date for the troop withdrawal. When there were 150,000 NATO troops […] it was time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why the Taliban would compromise once the release date is given […] why would they listen to us (Pakistan) when they feel victory, ”he added.

After the meeting, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Faiz Hamid, who accompanied the prime minister, told the media that not from Pakistan but that border violations had been committed since. Afghanistan and that Pakistani security forces were targeted.

Red zone files: Dealing with the fallout from Afghanistan is a good balance for Pakistan

The prime minister said Pakistan’s economy is finally recovering after going through a difficult phase. “I repeat that the last thing we want is turmoil in Afghanistan. No country has done more than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the dialogue table. We have spared no effort, apart from carrying out military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to bring them to the dialogue table and achieve a peaceful settlement. [in Afghanistan],” he added.

He reminded the Afghan president that he would not have visited Kabul in November last year if Pakistan had not been interested in peace. “The idea was to see Pakistan as a partner for peace. I am disappointed that we have been blamed for what is happening in Afghanistan, ”Khan said.

He said the current situation in Afghanistan was the result of a long-standing conflict and US efforts to seek a military solution.

He also said he had a conversation with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about how all neighbors in the region could facilitate the Afghan peace process.

“It is in the interests of all of us,” he reiterated.

SHAMAN: A girl sleeps on the floor as her family and others wait for the Afghanistan border crossing point to reopen on Friday. Across the border in the Afghan town of Spin Boldak, fighting raged between Afghan forces and the Taliban to retake the key border crossing point with Pakistan. (Right) Paramedics at a hospital in Chaman attend to men injured in the fighting. — AFP

PM meets EU representative

On the sidelines of the conference, Prime Minister Khan met Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, and discussed the Afghan conflict.

Tweeting about the meeting, Mr Borrell said: “Opportunity to meet Pakistani PM @ ImranKhanPTI on the sidelines of #Tashkent Connectivity conference. Discussion of security challenges and the impact of instability on the region. A peacefully negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is the only way forward. ”

While highlighting Pakistan’s vital contributions to the Afghan peace process and intra-Afghan negotiations, Khan said Pakistan has been caring for three million Afghan refugees for decades due to the conflict and expressed apprehension that more refugees could arrive because of the war in Afghanistan.

“We are petrified that there will be another influx of refugees and we do not have the capacity or the economic strength to support it. So I can assure you again that if one country is doing its best, it is Pakistan, ”he added.

Khan said the conflict can only be resolved through an Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled political process leading to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement.

The Prime Minister underlined the importance of the continued engagement of the international community to facilitate a lasting peace in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of NATO forces.

The main obstacle to RSS, according to PM

Responding to an Indian journalist who approached the Prime Minister after the conference, Khan said Indian ideology Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was the main obstacle to normalizing relations with Pakistan.

Asked about Pakistan’s position on talks with India, the Prime Minister said: “We have tried to tell India… that we have been waiting… for a long time, live as civilized neighbors,… but what to do, like RSS ideology has come along the way.

SHAMAN: A girl sleeps on the floor as her family and others wait for the Afghanistan border crossing point to reopen on Friday. Across the border in the Afghan town of Spin Boldak, fighting raged between Afghan forces and the Taliban to retake the key border crossing point with Pakistan. (Right) Paramedics at a hospital in Chaman attend to men injured in the fighting. — AFP

Regional connectivity

Mr. Khan said Pakistan’s connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral fields would open new avenues for prosperity in the region.

“Pakistan has immense potential to connect Central Asia to the rest of the world and become a hub of trade,” he said in his speech at the Uzbekistan-Pakistan Business Forum, which was held here in the Uzbek capital.

The Pakistan-Uzbek Business Forum brought together around 130 representatives of Pakistani companies and business houses, and the activity resulted in the signing of agreements worth an estimated $ 453 million.

Prime Minister Khan said: “I would like to assure the business community of Uzbekistan that this relationship is only the beginning of the journey of development and prosperity.” He believed that the railway project between Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan would prove to be a revolutionary development.

“Pakistan values ​​peace in Afghanistan and considers it vital for trade connectivity between countries in the region,” he said, adding that these trade ties are helping to raise the standard of living of the citizens.

He hoped that with the support and the will of States in the region, the situation in Afghanistan would improve.

Khan said Pakistan and Uzbekistan have relations rooted in a common faith, culture and history and provide a unique dimension for the two nations to explore in various fields.

In his speech, Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov mentioned the close ties between Pakistan and Uzbekistan in multiple areas of cooperation.

He welcomed Mr. Khan on his official visit which he said would pave the way for a new area of ​​cooperation and joint ventures between the two brother countries.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said two important objectives of the Prime Minister’s visit were to deliberate on ways to ensure peace in Afghanistan and ensure travel facilities between the three countries. He explained that Pakistan wanted an effective trade link with Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states.

“We want an efficient transport infrastructure so that the goods loaded from the Pakistani seaports of Karachi and Gwadar can reach Tashkent in Uzbekistan,” he said in a video message from the Uzbek capital.

Posted in Dawn, July 17, 2021

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