Pakistan urges world community not to isolate Afghan Taliban

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has urged the international community not to isolate the Taliban and instead develop a mechanism that leads to recognition of the new rulers of Afghanistan — with incentives if they fulfil their commitments.

FM Qureshi outlined the idea on Wednesday in an interview with the Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meeting of world leaders.

“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Qureshi told the AP. “At the same time, the international community has to realise: What’s the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”

He said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Taliban to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country”.

“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”

Expectations from the Taliban leadership could include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls, Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government might be motivated by receiving development, economic and reconstruction aid to help recover from decades of war.

He urged the United States, the International Monetary Fund and other countries that have frozen Afghan government funds to immediately release the money so it can be used “for promoting normalcy in Afghanistan.” And he pledged that Pakistan is ready to play a “constructive, positive” role in opening communications channels with the Taliban because it, too, benefits from peace and stability.

The Islamabad government has a fundamental vested interest in ensuring that whatever the new Afghanistan offers, it is not a threat to Pakistan.

That, Qureshi says, requires a steady and calibrated approach.

“It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and that will set the tone for recognition eventually,” the foreign minister said. The good news, he said, the Taliban are listening, “and they are not insensitive to what is being said by neighbours and the international community.”

He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in the coming days and weeks that will enhance their acceptability.

“What the international community can do, in my view, is sit together and work out a roadmap,” Qureshi said. “And if they fulfil those expectations, this is what the international community can do to help them stabilize their economy. This is the humanitarian assistance that can be provided. This is how they can help rebuild Afghanistan, reconstruction and so on and so forth.”

He added: “With this roadmap ahead, I think an international engagement can be more productive.”

Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community can work out the best way to approach the situation.

In the meantime, he asserted, things seem to be stabiliaing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized power on Aug 15, he said, Pakistan has received information that the law-and-order has improved, fighting has stopped and many internally displaced Afghans are going home.

“That’s a positive sign,” Qureshi said.

He said Pakistan hasn’t seen a new influx of Afghan refugees — a sensitive issue for Pakistanis, who are highly motivated to prevent it.

Qureshi prescribed patience and realism. After all, he says, every previous attempt to stabilise Afghanistan has failed, so don’t expect new efforts to produce immediate success with the Taliban. If the United States and its allies “could not convince them or eliminate them in two decades, how will you do it in the next two months or the next two years?” he wondered.

Asked whether he had a prediction of what Afghanistan might be like in six months, Qureshi turned the question back on his AP interviewer, replying: “Can you guarantee me US behaviour over the next six months?”

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