ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday dismissed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s assertion about the country being a safe haven for cross-border militant activities, and urged him to exercise caution while issuing such statements.
President Ghani had said on Wednesday that the “keys to war are in Islamabad, Quetta, Rawalpindi,” suggesting that Pakistan was providing safe havens to the Taliban and other militants to indulge in cross-border activities.
“Such statements have undermined the (Afghan) peace process in the past and one should refrain from issuing these kind of statements,” Dr. Mohammed Faisal, Foreign Office spokesperson, said while addressing a weekly press briefing here on Thursday.
He said that the relationship between Afghan officials and the Taliban was Afghanistan’s internal matter and “hopefully all stakeholders will be able to resolve their issues peacefully.”
However, when asked about the ongoing negotiations between the US and the Taliban to reach a political settlement to the Afghan conflict which has entered its 18th year, he said: “It is a very difficult and sensitive matter, but things are progressing in the right direction.”
The US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, briefed Ghani in Kabul on Sunday night about the progress made in the six-day peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
Khalilzad had hailed “significant progress” in the talks to end the decades-old conflict through a negotiated settlement.
“Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past ….. will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly,” he tweeted after the talks.
However, the Taliban have so far denied to initiate direct talks with the Afghan government by terming it as a “puppet” of the West and “illegitimate” — a major obstacle in the peace process.
This apparently has also frustrated Ghani who questioned the legitimacy of the Taliban on Wednesday for carrying out suicide attacks and other acts of terrorism in the war-torn country.
“If the Afghan government is illegitimate, so where does the Taliban get their legitimacy from?” he said.
“Islamic scholars in Makkah and Indonesia said that suicide attacks and killing of civilians does not have a legitimacy ... so where is the source of Taliban’s legitimacy?”
Pakistan’s Foreign Office, however, expressed optimism about the future of the peace process by welcoming the appointment of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha. “This is producing positive results,” Dr. Faisal said.
He added that Pakistan has played its role by bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and will continue to facilitate the peace process.
Dr. Faisal, however, expressed concerns about the increasing presence of Daesh militants in Afghan areas bordering Pakistan.