Politically provoking statements are likely to create a flutter. Not just the one restricted to trolls on social media but the one that affects diplomatic equations across nations. Pakistani Parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar has called Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi the Foreign Minister of Taliban. Why?
In an exclusive interview given to Tolo News recently, Foreign Minister Qureshi while addressing Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, was found defending Taliban in words more than one. So much so that pretty much every statement has been measured, interpreted and quoted multiple times ever since.
Pakistan has been at the centre of discussions on Afghan conflict for years. Today it seeks to position itself as at the centre of discussion on peace. While addressing the question that if there is a new opportunity emerging for peaceful co-existence between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Qureshi said, "Pakistan's approach has changed. We want Afghanistan to be peaceful and stable. Because we believe a peaceful, stable Afghanistan gives us the regional connectivity that is required. If you are looking for economic security, investments and bilateral trade, regional trade that can only come through peace. We benefit from it."
But wasn't that Pakistan's strategy before? To which he says, "It always was. What has changed is the approach of the world. People were of the view that peace could be achieved through military solution. It has not. We have been advocating for years that there is no military solution. What is required is negotiated political settlement."
Pakistani Parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar calls Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi the Foreign Minister of Taliban. Says, he has been given additional charge since Taliban is controlled by Pakistan. In reaction to Qureshi defending Taliban in interview with @TOLOnews. pic.twitter.com/v6DvFvK0KY— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) June 21, 2021
On statement made by Gilani
Former Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, while addressing the Pakistani Parliament, once said that "there was a state within a state which was not allowing civilian government here to do its work", Qureshi chose to duck the question. "I think when Mr Gilani made that statement it was out of political considerations. As PM he should have known he is the chief executive of the country. Chief executive of the country governs all institutions of the government. They report to him. I can speak for the institutions and how things are being run today. All are in harmony with the government. We are on the same page. We discuss, take inputs and the institutions carry out the policy of the government."
While emphasising the need for Afghanistan to find a solution, Qureshi also said they want to deal with the Afghan government which has been chosen by the people through elections. "We believe in democracy. We support a sovereign, independent and democratic Afghanistan."
Indian presence more than required
Coming back to the subject of Indian presence in Afghanistan, Qureshi expressed his reservations. "Afghanistan has every right to have bilateral trade with India. That's completely okay. But their presence is perhaps larger than it ought to be. They don't share a border. If they use Afghan soil against us, it bothers us. We have intelligence, information, we have shared that."
American war on terror
On how he feels about America leaving Afghanistan and whether they leave as a successful proud nation that has managed to dent terrorism forever, he said, "Americans have said that they have achieved their objectives and which was to break the back of international terrorist organisations. They feel that Afghan government and the Taliban that they negotiated with in Doha have very openly agreed that afghan soil will not be used against US or any other country, we are okay with that. America couldn't be in Afghanistan indefinitely."
On the Taliban leaders and who is the Taliban?
While not denying the presence of Taliban in Pakistan, Pakistan's Foreign Minister also said that the bulk of Taliban leaders are living in Afghanistan. "I am not saying they do not have relations here, but bulk of the leaders are living in Afghanistan. Taliban leaders coming to Pakistan publicly for consultations, for facilitating peace process…We are only engaging with them to facilitate the peace process. We are trying to be constructive. Many have started recognising that. There is a mental blockage of accepting the fact that Pakistan is being genuine, sincere."
But doesn't Taliban…?
When questioned by the interviewer on reports that they have a presence in Pakistan, freedom of movement, do recruitment there and also fund raising, Qureshi dubbed them as exaggerations. When things are not going in the right direction, they need a scapegoat. The easiest one is Pakistan."
"We are not responsible for the failure within Afghanistan, if Afghan leadership cannot work out a peace deal, what can we do?" But is the Taliban ready for peace? "I think they are. They have suffered as well." The fact that the Taliban has taken down 30 district in the past two months, is that a sign of peace? "The Afghan national army, security forces have to deal with that situation. The international community has spent a lot of money in training the Afghan security forces. You are far exceeding in numbers than Taliban. They also realise they have suffered, paid a huge price and it's their country, they are not foreigners, they are Afghans."
Who is responsible for violence in Afghanistan?
"Again you try and create this impression the violence is high because of Taliban. That would be an exaggeration. Aren't there other elements here who are playing the role of spoilers? Like forces within Afghanistan. Who came from the war economy who want to perpetuate their power."
Is Osama Bin Laden a martyr?
PM Imran Khan once infamously called Osama Bin Laden a martyr. But Shah Mahmood Qureshi feels the PM was quoted out of context. "Well, you are again out of context, he was quoted out of context. A particular section of the media played it up." But is Osama Bin Laden a martyr? After a long silence, he ducks the question again. "I will let that pass."
Social media stir
After several quotes and short clips from the video were shared on social media, many called out Pakistan's Foreign Minister for his frank defence of Taliban. "Blaming an invisible imagined culprit and giving clean chit to Taliban while pretending to be unbiased Afghan sympathiser. That is Pakistan policy," wrote an angry user in the comment section. Many others followed suit with similar remarks.