Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday that Pakistan had to coexist with Afghanistan hence, its approach towards the Taliban will have to be “realistic”.
Responding to a question – during a press conference held alongside British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – whether Pakistan’s ties with the Taliban will be based on certain conditions, Qureshi said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were in partnership for peace.
He said Pakistan had been saying that it had no favourites in Afghanistan, adding that it had certain compulsions while dealing with the country due to its geography.
Pakistan is a vital partner for the UK, and today Foreign Minister @SMQureshiPTI and I discussed how to ensure safe passage out of Afghanistan and the importance of a co-ordinated international response.
The UK 🇬🇧 and Pakistan 🇵🇰 will continue to work closely together on this. pic.twitter.com/tyipMtycJC
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) September 3, 2021
“A bulk of Afghanistan’s trade goes through Pakistan and closure of the border would result in another humanitarian crisis,” the FM said. He said there were dozens of border crossings that catered to thousands of Afghans entering Pakistan.
“Pakistan wanted to help the people of Afghanistan who have suffered for decades,” he said, adding that after so long there was a real opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. “We are waiting to see what happens in the next few days with eyes and ears open,” he added.
He added that things in Afghanistan were evolving and the entire world was hoping they would evolve in the right direction.
‘Mindful of Afghanistan’s neighbours’ situation’
The British foreign secretary said the country evacuated about 15,000 people from Kabul to the UK, adding that it was an unprecedented action for the country in modern times.
“As for the UK, we are mindful of the situation of Afghanistan’s neighbours. We have increased our aid budget for Afghanistan to £286 million. We would also be supporting countries who face greatest demands for those who may be displaced in the weeks ahead,” the British envoy said.
“We also discussed allowing people safely and securely to cross borders if it is in the third country to get back to the UK… of course, that is the way of easing the burden on Afghanistan’ neighbours,” Raab added.
Raab said: “It is vital that we help those fleeing Afghanistan and do not allow the crisis there to undermine regional stability.”
The British foreign secretary added that the country was sending up to £30 million of lifesaving support to Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Pakistan. “This is the money to provide shelter, household necessities and sanitation for those who come across the border. We recognise the problem and we want to be part of the solution.”
Later, an official statement issued by the UK government said £10 million will be made available immediately to humanitarian partners, such as the UNHCR, to enable essential supplies such as shelters to be despatched to the Afghan borders as well as setting up sanitation and hygiene facilities.
A further £20 million will be allocated to countries that experience a significant increase in refugees to support reception and registration facilities and provide essential services and supplies, it added.
The two sides discussed the assurances given by the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used by terrorist groups as a safe haven, said the British foreign secretary. He added: “We are building an international coalition around these core elements, such as safe passage.”
The regional partners will be key in moving forward, and Pakistan’s support will be vital in this, he said, adding that it would help exercise moderate influence on the Taliban.
The UK through giving aid to Afghanistan wanted to prevent the collapse of the economic and social fabric of the Afghan society, Raab said, adding that the British government was willing to help Afghanistan if the Taliban could guarantee a safe environment.
The government wouldn’t give money directly to the Taliban, but it will fund projects through the humanitarian groups working in Afghanistan. “But it all depends on how safe the environment is,” he said while responding to a question.
He further said that the aid given by the UK would also be used to support Pakistan deal with people fleeing Afghanistan. “We would not have got 15,000 people out without constructive dialogue with the Taliban,” the British top envoy responded.
He said that there was a need for a stronger consensus on basic issues which he identified as: more inclusive government, safe passage, no havens for terrorist outfits.
“It is in all sides’ interest to preserve regional stability,” Raab said. He added that it was important at this stage to judge the Taliban by these early, probably quite moderate, tests to see if they can deliver on their undertaking.
Pakistan on ‘red list’
The two FMs also held discussions on Pakistan’s inclusion in the UK’s red list, according to Qureshi. He said that a technical meeting will be held on Monday (September 6) to discuss the measures taken by Pakistan to get off the travel ‘red list’.
Dr Faisal Sultan will represent Pakistan in the meeting that will discuss measures to be taken by Pakistan to get into the amber list.
In a comment on the list, Raab said that he commended the efforts of the Pakistani government to curb the pandemic. He said the government based its decision on technical and scientific evidence that could be “contested”.
“We want to find a way through, no one wants Pakistan off the red list more than I do. We take these decisions at a technical level, I think the smart thing for us is to work together to enable that to happen soon,” Raab added.
Qureshi, in response to a question on Kashmir, said that he brought Raab’s attention to rights violations carried out by India in Kashmir, especially the snatching of Ali Jeelani’s body the Indian security forces. “The foreign secretary very clearly said that ‘opposition on Kashmir is known’, but that doesn’t stop us from raising human rights issues,” he added.
In his response, Raab said the UK urged both India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.
Qureshi said he also informed Raab on “tremendous progress” made by Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issue. He said the UK FM was asked to be supportive of the steps taken by Pakistan on the FATF issue, adding that concrete steps — legislative and administrative — taken by Pakistan were also recognised by the world.
Furthermore, Qureshi said he has also invited the foreign secretary to the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ESD) meeting to be held in Islamabad. He said the purpose of the ESD was to upgrade Pak-UK ties to a higher level.