The AP Interview: Senior Pakistani diplomat details Taliban plan
UNITED NATIONS (PA) – Be realistic. Be patient. To hire. And above all, do not isolate yourself. These are the pillars of an emerging approach in Pakistan to deal with the nascent government re-ruling the neighboring country – the resurgent and often volatile Taliban from Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government proposes that the international community develop a roadmap leading to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban – with incentives if they meet its demands – then sit face to face and discuss it with militia leaders.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi introduced the idea Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s world leaders meeting.
“If they meet these expectations, they will make it easier for themselves, they will gain acceptability, which is necessary for recognition,” Qureshi told the AP. “At the same time, the international community must understand: what is the alternative? What are the options? This is reality, and can they turn away from this reality? “
He said Pakistan “is in tune with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their presence, and for the Taliban to ensure “Afghan soil is never again. used against any country. “
“But we’re saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way to engage with them. The way they were treated didn’t work.
Expectations of Taliban leaders could include inclusive government and guarantees for human rights, especially for women and girls, Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government could be motivated by receiving development, economic and reconstruction assistance 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 that it can be used “to promote normalcy in Afghanistan.” And he pledged that Pakistan is ready to play a “constructive and positive” role in opening up channels of communication with the Taliban, because it too enjoys peace and stability.
This is the second time that the Taliban, who adhere to a strict version of Islam, have ruled Afghanistan. The first time, from 1996 to 2001, ended when they were ousted by a US-led coalition after the September 11 attacks, led by Osama bin Laden of Afghanistan.
During this regime, Taliban leaders and police banned girls from going to school and prohibited women from working outside or leaving the home without a male escort. After being overthrown, Afghan women still faced challenges in the male-dominated society, but increasingly held positions of power in government and in many fields.
But when the United States withdrew its military from Afghanistan last month, the government collapsed and a new generation of Taliban reappeared, taking over almost immediately. In the weeks that followed, many countries expressed disappointment that the Taliban’s interim government was not inclusive as its spokesperson had promised.
While the new government has allowed young girls to attend school, it has yet to allow older girls to return to secondary school, and most women to return to work despite a pledge in April according to which women “can serve their society in education, business, health and social fields while maintaining a correct Islamic hijab.
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a long and sometimes confrontational relationship with its neighbor which includes attempts to prevent terrorism in that country and, some say, encourages it as well. The Islamabad government has a fundamental interest in ensuring that whatever the new Afghanistan offers it does not pose a threat to Pakistan.
This, says Qureshi, requires a regular and calibrated approach.
“It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and it will eventually set the tone for recognition,” the Pakistani minister said. The good news, he said: the Taliban are listening, “and they are not oblivious to what neighbors and the international community say.”
How does he know they are listening? He says the interim government, drawn mainly from the dominant Pashtun ethnic group in Afghanistan, made some additions on Tuesday. He added representatives of the country’s ethnic minorities – Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are Shia Muslims in the predominantly Sunni country.
“Yes, there are no women yet,” Qureshi said. “But let the situation evolve.”
He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in the days and weeks to come that will improve their acceptability.
“What the international community can do, in my opinion, is sit down together and develop a roadmap,” Qureshi said. “And if they meet those expectations, that’s what the international community can do to help them stabilize their economy. It is humanitarian aid that can be provided. This is how they can help rebuild Afghanistan, rebuild, etc.
He added: “With this roadmap coming, I think an international engagement can be more productive. “
On Wednesday evening, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said after a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that the five nations – the United States, China, the Great Brittany, Russia and France – want “an Afghanistan at peace, stable, where humanitarian aid can be distributed without problem or discrimination.
He also described an “Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls are respected, an Afghanistan that will not be a sanctuary for terrorism, an Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government representing the different sectors of the population”.
Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community can find the best way to approach the situation. In the meantime, he said, things appear to be stabilizing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized power on August 15, he said, Pakistan received reports that the law and order situation has improved, the fighting has ceased and many Internally displaced Afghans are returning home.
“It’s a positive sign,” Qureshi said.
He said Pakistan has not seen a new influx of Afghan refugees – a sensitive issue for Pakistanis, who are highly motivated to prevent it. A humanitarian crisis, a collapsing economy and workers returning to work and school but not receiving wages and money could cause Afghans to cross the porous border into Pakistan, which suffered economically from such arrivals during decades of conflict.
Qureshi prescribed patience and realism. After all, he says, all previous attempts to stabilize Afghanistan have failed, so don’t expect new efforts to produce immediate success with the Taliban. If the United States and its allies “couldn’t win them over or eliminate them in two decades, how will you do it in the next two months or the next two years?” He wondered.
When asked if he had a prediction of what Afghanistan might be like six months from now, Qureshi returned the question to his interviewer AP, replying: “Can you guarantee the behavior of the United States in the over the next six months?
Edith M. Lederer, senior UN correspondent for the Associated Press, has been reporting internationally for nearly 50 years. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EdithLedererAP
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