US should systematically withdraw from Afghanistan: Pakistan’s foreign minister

The US should systematically withdraw from Afghanistan to prevent what had happened in the 1990s in the country, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Friday.

“If [US] withdrawal is not systematic, we are concerned that Afghanistan may get sucked into a situation that we experienced in the 1990s, when there was anarchy, civil war, instability,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Anadolu Agency at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in the Turkish Riviera city of Antalya.

Qureshi said that the withdrawal should be carried out in a “responsible way.”

“Afghans have paid the biggest price. The second to the Afghans are Pakistanis. We lost 83,000 lives on account of terrorism. Our economy has suffered close to over $128 billion,” he said.

Noting that Pakistan hosts nearly 3 million Afghan refugees for four decades, he said they do not want another influx of refugees.

“We think it’s time that they go back home with honor and dignity. And that can only happen if there’s peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

Underlining that Pakistan facilitated the peace process between the Taliban and the US at the Doha Peace Agreement, he said: “As far as peace of Afghanistan is concerned, my point is, and my contention is that this is a shared responsibility. Pakistan is already in its role, but it’s basically the conciliation within Afghanistan.”

Stressing that the ownership and the responsibility lie on the Afghan leadership, he said they have to sit together and decide on their future.

Pakistan can only facilitate the process, he said, adding that they cannot tell Afghanistan what to do as Afghanistan is a sovereign and independent country.

On Turkish forces to take over the security role in Afghanistan as the US withdrawal from the country, he said Pakistan has always been very comfortable with Turkey.

“Whether it’s Turkish forces, Turkish Foreign Ministry, Turkish leadership. We have a very, very comfortable relationship,” he noted.

“Turkey is part of NATO. But NATO has decided to withdraw. [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan made a statement at the summit… I might get an opportunity to have a word with him over there to find out what is in his mind,” he said.

Pointing out that the Istanbul Conference, where the Afghanistan peace process would be discussed, has been canceled, he said: “I would like to know how Turkey is foreseeing the future. Turkey is an important regional power. We hold meetings regularly.”

About his meetings with the Turkish president and foreign minister, he said they would also discuss Islamophobia besides Afghanistan.

Underlining that Turkey and Pakistan have similar views on this issue, he said there is a rising trend of hate speech, discrimination and targeting of Muslims in the West.

We collectively feel that we need to combat this growing menace, he said.

– Relations with Turkey

Regarding bilateral relations with Turkey, Qureshi said the countries have “an excellent relationship based on trust and friendship, leading to an economic partnership in the future.”

“We cooperate for a number of platforms. Turkey and Pakistan are very closely associated and work in harmony in the international foras, particularly at the UN, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and other forums. We have a good defense cooperation understanding and it is deepening with the passage of time,” he said.

We need to increase our economic footprint, promote bilateral trade and also encourage investments, he noted.

“We have a new economic framework that was put into place when President Erdogan visited Pakistan last time. We have now this high-level consultation mechanism and [Imran Khan] the Prime Minister of Pakistan will be visiting Turkey for this issue,” he added.

On the Gwadar port project in southern Pakistan, he said it will be the shortest route for landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian republics to sea range.

“There is huge potential for Gwadar to become the hub of economic duty,” he said, inviting Turkish investors in the special economic zones that are being developed along the economic corridor.

The $64 billion mega-project signed in 2014 aims to connect China’s strategically important northwestern Xinjiang province to the Gwadar port through a network of roads, railways, and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.

The economic corridor will not only provide China with cheaper access to Africa and Middle East but will also earn Pakistan billions of dollars for providing transit facilities to the world’s second-largest economy.

– Palestine-Israeli conflict

As for the ongoing conflict in Palestine, Qureshi thanked Turkey and the OIC for their leadership in the face of Israel’s atrocities in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“There was a cease-fire announced, but that was the first step. What is required is initiating once again the peace process that has stalled for a long time,” he said, adding that durable peace in the Middle East can be achieved by the two-state formula.

An Egyptian-brokered truce that took effect in the early hours of May 21 ended Israel’s 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli attacks in Gaza and the West Bank killed at least 289 people, including women and children, and left behind a trail of destruction.

Health centers and media offices, as well as schools, were among the structures targeted.

– Jammu and Kashmir

Qureshi also referred to India’s removal of the articles in the constitution that ensure the protection of the demographic structure and special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Stressing that India violated the UN Security Council resolutions, international law and the 4th Geneva Convention with this decision, he said Pakistan considered the act “unilateral and illegal.” Pakistan would go along with the wishes of the Kashmiri community, he said.

Highlighting that the removed article 35A is related to the protection of the demographic structure in the region, he said: “We feel there is a design for demographic restructuring to convert this Muslim state, the only Muslim state in India, into a minority. India is under certain international obligations and India’s violating those obligations.”

Jammu and Kashmir is on the UN agenda since 1948, with several resolutions by UNGA and UN Security Council calling for giving people of the disputed territory the right to self-determination to determine their political future.

In 2019, India ended minimal autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir under Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution after putting the region of around 12 million people under military siege and cutting communications with the outer world.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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