Pak mission head in Kabul returns

December 06, 2022

ISLAMABAD: As expected, Pakistan’s Head of Mission in Kabul, Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani, returned to Pakistan in what the Foreign Office says was a “pre-scheduled” visit for...

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ISLAMABAD: As expected, Pakistan’s Head of Mission in Kabul, Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani, returned to Pakistan in what the Foreign Office says was a “pre-scheduled” visit for consultations.

He will be briefing the new Foreign Secretary, Dr. Asad M. Khan, who has taken charge of the Foreign Office. Immediately after, there was an announcement from Kabul today that the lone assassin who had tried to take out Nizamani had been arrested.

Nizamani escaped an attempt on his life last Friday as he took a routine walk inside the premises of the embassy and a lone assassin fired on him. While he remained safe, his security guard, SSG Israr Muhammad, took bullets to his chest and legs but survived, and he is currently recovering in a hospital in Peshawar. Because he was inside the embassy compound, Israr was not wearing a bulletproof jacket but luckily survived. Shocked by this assassination attempt on its top diplomat, voices were raised to withdraw the Head of Mission and temporarily close the embassy to send a strong message to Kabul that enough was enough. Previously, the TTP had also carried out terrorist attacks in Pakistan from inside Afghanistan, and Kabul clearly could not stop them.

However, the government decided against this, and the Foreign Office announced there were no plans to close the embassy or withdraw diplomats from Kabul.

“Pakistan is in contact with the Interim government in Afghanistan, and enhanced security measures are being taken to protect Pakistani diplomatic personnel and missions in Afghanistan,” said the spokeswoman. On Monday, The News approached the spokeswoman at the Foreign Office and asked what the way forward was for Pakistan after the Kabul attack and how serious and capable the interim government of Afghanistan was to deal with terrorists on its soil.

“We take the security of our diplomats and diplomatic missions in Afghanistan very seriously. We have been assured by the Afghan side, including by the acting foreign minister in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, that all necessary measures will be taken to ensure the safety and security of our diplomatic personnel and missions in Afghanistan. “We remain actively engaged with the interim Afghan government on this account,” she said.

However, she did not give details of whether, in their present state, the Taliban could ensure the safety of Pakistani diplomats and stop terrorism through TTP Pakistan. As soon as Nizamani returned to Pakistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, the official spokesman for the Taliban interim government, announced on Monday that the “person who tried to shoot Pakistan’s Head of Mission has been arrested.”

“He belongs to the ISIS group. Certain circles want to create an atmosphere of distrust between the two brother countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan with such sinister actions. Inquiry is continuing.”

Immediately after, the Foreign Office reacted: “This is an ongoing investigation. We are closely following it. We also remain in active contact with the Afghan authorities on the matter. We are confident that the terrorist attack targeting our Head of Mission in Kabul will be fully investigated, and the perpetrators and their abettors will be brought to account. Pakistan remains resolute in its commitment to fight the scourge of terrorism.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal had sought an investigation into the assassination attempt, while the Foreign Office summoned the Afghan Charge d’Affaires to convey “deep concern and anguish over the attack.”

Meanwhile, The News spoke to two former foreign secretaries about where Pakistan goes from here with its bilateral relations with Afghanistan. “The interim government in Kabul, Tehriq Taliban Afghanistan (TTA), is ideologically aligned with the TTP and not so distant from others such as Daesh and Al Qaeda. I think we had them wrong and will continue to give them the benefit of the doubt. They have done more to harm relations with Pakistan. It is time to correct this and warn them of the consequences. The TTA can control the TTP but is not doing so. It is also time to maintain proper relationships and refrain from being arrogant. Let them handle their internal relations as they wish. But make it clear that terrorism from Afghanistan will not be tolerated,” former foreign secretary Salman Bashir told The News.

Another former foreign secretary, Jalil Abbas Jilani is of the view that the Taliban have the capacity but remain unwilling to take action against all groups as part of an insurance policy.

“They think they may need these groups at some stage. Non-recognition and financial constraints have generated a huge sense of insecurity. Taliban are taking action against some terrorist groups like ISIK, and ETIM but not all. US and Chinese diplomats have confirmed this. They have been able to subdue a weakened AQ. AQ is not very active. Since they were helpful to the Taliban in the past, Taliban are letting them live in peace”, Jilani told this scribe.

He added that the TTP is in alliance with the Afghan Taliban. “Taliban have not taken any action against it. Following successive negotiations, they issued a statement last month warning the TTP not to attack Pakistan. How serious was the warning and how seriously it would be taken remains a big question mark”, he stressed.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq says that the Pakistan government will provide resources to further enhance the security of its diplomats following the assassination attempt at the envoy.

On Monday, the ambassador visited Peshawar to inquire after SSG Mujahid Israr Mohammad who had saved his Boss’s life. “He is doing well MaShaAllah. All the vitals are stable. He is in high spirits.

He had undergone major surgery yesterday. I also met his family and doctors. They said he didn’t complain at all and was consoling the family that he was okay”, said Ambassador Sadiq. “There was no reaction from the Foreign Office.”

Previously, when the ISSS claimed responsibility for the attack, the Foreign Office stated: “Independently and in consultation with the Afghan authorities, we are verifying the veracity of these reports. The attack served as a reminder of the dangers that militant activity poses to the region. We must act resolutely with all our collective might to defeat this menace. On its part, Pakistan remains steadfast in its commitment to combat terrorism.”

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