ISLAMABAD: Minister for Interior and Narcotics Control Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Wednesday said no country can ignore Pakistan as Islamabad convinced the Taliban to hold dialogue with the US.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that due to the diplomatic efforts of Pakistan, the United States of America and the Afghan Taliban sat on a negotiation table. Pakistan’s efforts for peace process in Afghanistan would be remembered long, he remarked. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had tried to convince former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to hold talks with the Taliban but the former Afghan president was not prepared for that.
The interior minister said that “lasting peace in Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan. We will not allow anyone to use our soil against any country. At the same time, “we will also not tolerate if any other country's land to be used against Pakistan," he added.
Sh Rashid said on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan has offered a special package of transit visa to Afghan diplomats and senior officials on their arrival at Islamabad. He said that the government has decided to keep open all Pakistani airports round-the-clock for foreign diplomats, journalists, and senior officials of IMF, World Bank, etc who are coming from Kabul. The Immigration Department, FIA and other relevant staff will be available on airports to facilitate them, he said.
Rejecting the false propaganda of Indian media regarding the situation on Torkham and Chaman borders, the interior minister made it clear that no Afghan immigrants were present over there. "The situation on these two borders reportedly remained peaceful. The route was clear for trade and transit," the minister maintained. Everything was under control on borders. However, Sheikh Rasheed, said the personnel of civil armed forces, law enforcement agencies and the government officials were on high alert.
Since mid-August, Rashid said that at least 900 diplomats and staff of other embassies had been evacuated from Afghanistan. Similarly, three buses carrying Pakistani nationals reached the country via Torkham border after the Ghani’s departure, he said. A total of 613 Pakistani nationals had arrived so far, he informed. The minister said currently around 100-120 Pakistani nationals were still stranded in Afghanistan, but the mission to evacuate them would be completed within a couple of days.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is preparing to tour regional countries to develop “a regional consensus over the evolving situation in Afghanistan,” said the Foreign Office. Talking to media persons at Mumtazabad, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi suggested a comprehensive discussion on Afghanistan’s current situation among all neighboring countries. The foreign minister said that he would visit different countries including Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan after Muharram-ul-Harram.
Earlier speaking on telephone to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, FM Qureshi informed him about his visits in this regard and discussed the latest developments in Kabul which is preparing to announce a new president and his cabinet.
Pakistan is of the view that in the given situation, it was extremely important to ensure safety and security as well as protection of rights of the Afghan people.
Qureshi shared with Yi the details of a recently held National Security Committee meeting (NSC), which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, convened to discuss Pakistan's future strategy on Afghanistan, according to the statement. In line with decisions taken during the NSC meeting, the foreign minister laid emphasis on an "inclusive political settlement," in Afghanistan, for which he said all Afghans would have to work together. "A peaceful and stable Afghanistan was of critical importance for Pakistan and the entire region," the statement quoted Qureshi as saying. “In this perspective, Pakistan had assiduously supported the Afghan peace process. Pakistan and China, as part of Troika Plus, had made valuable contribution to these efforts,” said the Foreign Office.
Qureshi stressed that an inclusive political settlement was essential, for which all Afghans should work together adding that it was equally important for the international community to remain engaged in support of the Afghan people. He also emphasized that the international community must also have sustained economic engagement with Afghanistan.
The foreign minister apprised Foreign Minister Wang Yi of Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate the evacuation of personnel and staff of diplomatic missions, international organisations, media and others from Afghanistan. Retreating that both countries were iron brothers and strategic partners, Qureshi pointed to the tradition of maintaining close coordination and communication on issues of common interest and significance.
The Foreign Office earlier, called upon India to do away with its feigning concern for minorities. The FO spokesperson was reacting to comments by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs which had criticized Pakistan for the recent destruction of the statue in Lahore of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by an individual who was arrested and jailed. “Rather than feigning concern for minorities elsewhere, India should seriously introspect, move away from entrenched anti-minority mindset being destructively spawned by the RSS-BJP regime, and discard state-sponsored discriminatory policies,” the statement said.
Pakistan also called upon India to “take effective steps for protection of minorities' worship places, culture and heritage sites”, added the spokesman. The spokesperson further said that places of worship of minorities in India were targeted with “state complicity” and called upon the neighbouring country to ensure safety, protection and well-being of the minorities, including Muslims. The Foreign Office, responded to Indian criticism, saying: “It is highly hypocritical of a country that is purveyor of state-sponsored discrimination against its minorities to pontificate on the issue of minority rights elsewhere."
The FO spokesperson remarked that a mature state would have appreciated the immediate arrest of the accused against whom strict legal action had already been initiated. “The government, legislature, judiciary, civil society and the media in Pakistan have always worked for ensuring constitutional protections for members of minorities as equal citizens,” he said.
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