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Afghan negotiation deadlock better than bloody battlefield stalemate: Imran Khan

PM writes opinion piece for the Washington Times

SAMAA | - Posted: Sep 27, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
Posted: Sep 27, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
Afghan negotiation deadlock better than bloody battlefield stalemate: Imran Khan

Photo: AFP

We have arrived at a rare moment of hope for Afghanistan and for our region, says Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Times published on September 26.

“With the exception of the resilient Afghans themselves, no people have paid a higher price for the conflict in Afghanistan than the people of Pakistan. Through decades of conflict, Pakistan has dealt with the responsibility of taking care of more than four million Afghan refugees. Guns and drugs have also flowed into our country. The wars have disrupted our economic trajectory and radicalized fringes of our own society. The Pakistan I had known growing up in the 1960s and 1970s changed in some deeply unsettling ways.”

He said the experience taught Pakistan two important lessons: we are too closely intertwined with Afghanistan not to cast a shadow on Pakistan, and peace and political stability in Afghanistan cannot be imposed from the outside through the use of force.

“We realized Pakistan will not know real peace until our Afghan brothers and sisters are at peace.”

So, when President Trump wrote to me in late 2018 to ask for Pakistan’s assistance in helping the United States achieve a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, we had no hesitation in assuring the president that Pakistan would make every effort to facilitate such an outcome—and we did, he said.

The path we have travelled to get here wasn’t easy, he said, but we were able to press on thanks to the courage and flexibility that were on display from all sides. “The United States and its allies facilitated the prisoner exchange between Kabul and the Taliban. The government of Afghanistan and the Taliban responded to the Afghan people’s yearning for peace.”

PM Khan said the negotiations are likely to be even more difficult, requiring patience and compromise from all sides. But he said the world would do well to remember that a bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield.

He also cautioned against a hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan. “We should also guard against regional spoilers who are not invested in peace and see instability in Afghanistan as advantageous for their own geopolitical ends.”

Pakistan will continue to support the Afghan people in their quest for a unified, independent and sovereign Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbours, he wrote, adding that Pakistan believes that peace negotiations should not be conducted under coercion.

He said Pakistan does not want to see Afghanistan become a sanctuary for international terrorism ever again. “Since 9/11, more than 80,000 Pakistani security personnel and civilians have laid down their lives in perhaps the largest and most successful fight against terrorism. But Pakistan continues to be the target of attacks launched by externally enabled terrorist groups based in Afghanistan.”

These terrorist groups pose a clear and present danger to global peace, said the premier, adding that Pakistan hopes the Afghan government will control ungoverned spaces inside its territory from where terrorist groups are able to plan and carry out attacks.

“It is also time to start planning for the “day after” — how can the world help a post-war Afghanistan transition to sustainable peace? How do we create conditions that will enable the millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and other countries, to return to their homeland with dignity and honour?”

My vision for Pakistan prioritises development and prosperity for my country and our region through connectivity and economic diplomacy, he wrote. Our initial discussions with the US International Development Finance Corporation have been encouraging and it is heartening that the US and Pakistan are of one mind on the importance of a “peace dividend” for ensuring a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, he said.

“For Pakistan, regional peace and stability remain key to realising the collective aspirations of our people for a better future. We are committed to multilateral collaboration to achieve this.”

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