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Taliban are a political force: Khawaja Asif

By Our Correspondent
March 02, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Asif on Thursday said that Taliban in Afghanistan are a political force and Pakistan welcomes Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s talks offer to the Taliban. He clarified that Pakistan would not sacrifice its interests for the sake of United States adding that if US wants peace in the region it should review its policy.

Talking to the media here, Khawaja Asif asked Washington to strike a balance in its policy towards South Asia. Responding to a question Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that Pakistan would frame its foreign policy keeping in view the national interests.

He said Pakistan Army gives befitting response to Indian firing along Line of Control (LoC). It seems that neighbouring country is not ready to negotiate he added.

The minister said that Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir are in front of everyone but the international community is not taking any action into the matter. Khawaja Muhammad Asif welcomed the dialogue offer made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Taliban. He said Afghan Taliban are a political entity and Pakistan supports the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The foreign minister said Pakistan desires peace and stability in the neighboring country. He stressed there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said vital project like China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could be adversely affected if political instability continues.

In his keynote speech at a function jointly organised by the Islamabad-based think-tank Pakistan China Institute (PCI) and the Association for Certified Chartered Accountant (ACCA) Pakistan here Thursday, Khawaja Asif underscored the vital need for political stability in Pakistan to carry CPEC forward.

Deviating from the written text of his speech, the foreign minister said he was a political worker and felt it necessary to highlight possible challenges to the project that could change the destiny of the people of Pakistan. He went on to emphasise the necessity of inter-institutional harmony, adding that the national interest was the collective interest of the entire people as opposed to personal or just institutional interest.

He said the world was witnessing a major transformation, with “the summer of Western civilization fading, giving way to era of the Asian civilization, in which Pakistan and China are strategic partners”. He said CPEC was part of this process of the resurgence of the Asian civilization.

The foreign minister said that as the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC is one of the most significant and transformative projects in modern history. He said the initiative was a harbinger of shared dreams, common prosperity and win-win cooperation between two old friends, Pakistan and China.

Speaking to a different audience later in the day, Khawaja Asif lent support to Afghan government’s proposed recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group and said Pakistan was ready for one-on-one mediation with the Afghan Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recognition offer came at the second Kabul Process conference on Wednesday inviting the Taliban to take part in peace talks “to save the country”. “The talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are actually discussions between two political forces, and Pakistan will support it,” Foreign Minister Asif told a group of CPEC investors.

The foreign minister repeated what he said at the CPI-ACCA function that some institutions portrayed their own interests as being in the greater national interest. “This habit will also be changed soon”, he said.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan was presently going through a period of uncertainty but hoped the country would come out of it. Responding to a query about the recent American interest for a possible dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi, Khawaja Asif said: “The US can have an interest in Pak-India discussions, but before that it should create some balance in its South Asia policy.”

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