New, civilised Afghan Taliban may prefer talks to guns: Rashid

RAWALPINDI: Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed believes that “new, civilised Afghan Taliban” would prefer talks to guns after Afghanistan suffered violence, civil war and repeated invasions by foreign forces in recent decades.

In an informal interaction with reporters during the Azad Jammu and Kashmir election campaign on Sunday, the minister stated Islamabad would accept any government in Afghanistan that has the backing of the Afghan people.

He was of the opinion that all stakeholders in Afghanistan should come to table for a political settlement to ensure that the country did not plunge into yet another civil war. “The dialogue with Taliban will be in the interest of all. We will support peace in neighboring country Afghanistan,” he said.

Suggests Afghan stakeholders to hold dialogue for peace

The federal minister told reporters that Afghan leaders Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai, Mullah Baradar, Ustad Atta Mohammad Nur and all stakeholders should come to the table for dialogue.

Mr Rashid made it clear that Pakistan wanted peace in the region. “If China wanted to invest 400 billion dollars in Iran, it will not be possible without peace in Afghanistan. The train we want to bring to Uzbekistan is not possible without stability in Afghanistan. China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan are in a changed region,” he said.

Due to its strategic location, no superpower could ignore Pakistan, he said, adding that Islamabad’s role was important in the region.

He said India was carrying out terrorist activities in Afghanistan and over the past 40 years was involved in spreading negative propaganda against Pakistan. However, India got embarrassment in Afghanistan, he said.

The interior minister said that with the fencing of Afghan border, Pakistan was in a better position than it had been in the past. He explained that the Torkham and Chaman borders were being managed well. He categorically stated that Pakistan would not allow anyone to use its land for disturbing peace in Afghanistan or the entire region.

He said the Pakistan Army had given a detailed briefing to the parliamentarians on the national security and army and political leadership were on the same page.

Talking about the upcoming elections in Azad and Jammu Kashmir, the minister lashed out at ‘irresponsible leadership’ of the opposition parties, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vice president Maryam Nawaz, and said they were using inappropriate and derogatory language at public rallies in AJK.

He said the opposition was talking all the time against Prime Minister Imran Khan but they highlighted the Kashmir issue only on TV. He said the US and the UK authorities were aware of the several bank accounts of the opposition leaders in those countries.

Mr Rashid, chief of the Awami Muslim League, said that the hue and cry over what the opposition parties called ‘pre-poll rigging’ indicated that they were losing the battle in the upcoming AJK elections.

He sounded confident that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was likely to form its government in AJK after winning with an overwhelming majority. He said the PTI already had formed its government in the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan. “Both the leaders of PML-N and PPP foresee their defeat in the AJK,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2021

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