Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday retaliated strongly against Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s claims about Pakistan’s “negative role” in the Afghan peace process.
Addressing the international conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” during his two-day visit to Uzbekistan, Khan said that it was ‘unfair’ to blame the country for the situation in Afghanistan.
Khan’s comments came shortly before two leaders’ scheduled meeting on the sideline of the conference.
“President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict,” the premier said as he stopped reading from his written speech.
He maintained that the Taliban were no longer willing to compromise after the United States announced a date for the withdrawal of troops.
“When there were 150,000 NATO troops that were the time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given […] why would they listen to us when they are sensing victory,” the prime minister questioned.
The premier said that Pakistan’s economy was finally recovering after a long period of turmoil, why would it want instability in the region again.
PM Imranreiterated that no country has tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table for dialogues.
“We have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. To blame Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan is extremely unfair.”
He said that he would not have visited Kabul in November last year if Pakistan was not interested in peace.
“The whole idea was to look upon Pakistan as a partner in peace. I feel disappointed that we have been blamed for what is going on in Afghanistan.”
Later, the Prime Minister met President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the conference. Radio Pakistan reported.
The two dignitaries led their respective sides in delegation-level talks.