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World should engage with Afghanistan, says Imran amid ISI chief's Kabul visit

Khan spoke with Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres over telephone and the two leaders discussed the developments in Afghanistan.

Published: 05th September 2021 08:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th September 2021 08:01 AM   |  A+A-

Taliban fighters walk in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (Photo | AP)

By PTI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said the world should engage with Afghanistan to address humanitarian needs and provide economic stability to prevent a refugee crisis in the war-torn country.

Khan spoke with Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres over telephone and the two leaders discussed the developments in Afghanistan, with a particular focus on the humanitarian situation.

According to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office, Khan underscored the need for the international community to become more engaged with Afghanistan, according urgent priority to addressing the humanitarian needs and ensuring economic stability.

"Such steps would not only reinforce security but also preclude any mass exodus of Afghans from their country, thus preventing a refugee crisis in Afghanistan," he said.

Khan highlighted the importance of peace, stability and an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan, stressing that the opportunity to finally put an end to 40 years of conflict in the country must be seized by enabling the Afghans to achieve a lasting peace, security and prosperity, the statement said.

He appreciated the vital role of the UN in delivering much needed humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and highlighted the facilitation being provided by Pakistan to the UN, including by assisting in the evacuation and relocation efforts.

Assuring Guterres of Pakistan's continued cooperation with the UN in the fulfilment of its mandate, Khan reaffirmed Pakistan's full support for the smooth operation of United Nations' humanitarian mission for Afghanistan, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's powerful intelligence chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who dashed to Kabul on an unannounced visit amidst efforts by the Taliban to finalise a government in Afghanistan, on Saturday expressed confidence that "everything will be okay" in the war-weary country.

A delegation of senior Pakistani officials led by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lieutenant General Hameed arrived in Kabul to conduct discussions with the incoming Taliban government, the Pakistan Observer newspaper reported.

In a short video clip circulated in the media, Hameed is seen trying to respond to questions by a journalist who first asked: "Will you be meeting senior people in the Taliban?" "No, I'm not clear," the ISI chief said and looked towards Pakistan ambassador to Kabul Mansour Ahmad Khan, who was standing by his side, to respond to the question.

But before Khan said anything, the journalist posed another question.

"What do you hope is going to happen now in Afghanistan?" he was asked.

"I have just landed",Hameed said and once again looked towards Khan who quipped: "We are working for peace and stability in Afghanistan."

At this Hameed smiled and said: "Don't worry, everything will be okay."

Hameed's visit to Afghanistan comes as pressure is mounting on the Taliban to form an inclusive government acceptable to the international community.

Earlier, Pakistan Observer newspaper reported that the ISI chief was expected to meet the Taliban leaders and commanders.

"Issues relating to Pak-Afghan security, economy, and other matters will be taken up with the Taliban leadership," the report said, quoting sources.

It is the first high-level visit of any Pakistani official to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over of Kabul on August 15, in a move that surprised both their foes and friends.

Since then, the Taliban have been trying to form a government but so far have held back the announcement.

The Taliban have postponed the formation of a new government in Afghanistan for next week, their spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Saturday, as the insurgent group struggles to give shape to a broad-based and inclusive administration acceptable to the international community.

This is the second time that the Taliban have delayed the formation of the new government in Kabul since their toppling of the US-backed Afghanistan government.

The insurgent group was expected to announce the formation of the new government led by its co-founder Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar on Friday, but later postponed it by a day to Saturday.

According to the Express Tribune, Hameed will also meet Pakistan's envoy in Kabul to discuss the matter of repatriation and transit through Pakistan of foreign nationals and Afghans fleeing Taliban rule.

"The issue of pending requests from countries and international organisations for the repatriation/transit through Pakistan and the need to determine the mechanism through which Pakistan could allow these, in coordination with the ground authorities in Afghanistan will be discussed during the meeting with the Taliban officials," it said, quoting sources.

The intelligence chief will spend a day in the Afghan capital, the Geo News reported.

Border management is another important issue that will come under discussion during the visit of Hameed, it said.

Pakistan was often accused by the Afghanistan government of giving the Taliban military aid, a charge denied by Islamabad.

Hameed's visit to Kabul came as Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab earlier in the day and said that Pakistan will assist in the formation of an inclusive administration in Afghanistan.

Raab arrived in Islamabad on Thursday night to meet top Pakistani leadership and discuss the Afghanistan situation.

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Saturday told British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that Islamabad will "assist" the Taliban to form an inclusive administration in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Gen.Bajwa, in his meeting with Raab here, discussed issues of mutual interest, regional security and the current situation in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Observer reported that Gen. Bajwa said in the meeting that Pakistan will "continue to fight for peace and stability in Afghanistan, as well as assist the formation of an inclusive administration." Gen. Bajwa's remarks came as Pakistan's powerful intelligence chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed on Saturday dashed to Kabul, amidst the Taliban struggling to finalise and install an inclusive government in Afghanistan that would be acceptable to the international community.

The Taliban have postponed the formation of a new government in Afghanistan for next week as the insurgent group struggles to give shape to a broad-based and inclusive administration acceptable to the international community.

This is the second time that the Taliban have delayed the government formation since their toppling of the US-backed Afghanistan government.

Initially, the insurgent group was expected to announce the formation of the new government led by its co-founder Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar on Friday.

British Foreign Secretary Raab arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to hold talks with the country's top leadership.

"Both sides agree to continue to seek ways of co-operation in the areas of defence, training and counter-terrorism," the report said.

Raab said: "The basis for the UK-Pakistan relationship is very strong - and the UK has the desire to take it to the next level. We also have a very clear and shared interest in the future of Afghanistan. We will judge the Taliban by their actions, not their words".

He also indicated to communicate with the Taliban but refused to recognise their government immediately.

Raab also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan who stressed the need to strengthen the security situation in Afghanistan, take steps to strengthen peace and prevent any large-scale migration.

"Preventing the humanitarian crisis and stabilising the economy are urgent needs," Khan said as he called on the international community to stand in solidarity with the Afghan people, engage positively and encourage peaceful, stable and inclusive politics.

The Foreign Secretary visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at Torkham, a key crossing point, to see for himself the situation on the ground and also met members of the team supporting the current crisis response, according to the British High Commission.

The US and the international community expect the Taliban in Afghanistan to form an inclusive government with representations from different communities and fulfil its commitments like countering terrorism, respecting the rights of women and minorities and not to engage in reprisal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Blinken's remarks came ahead of an expected announcement by the Taliban on the formation of a new government in Afghanistan.

"As we've said and as countries around the world have said, there is an expectation that any government that emerges now will have some real inclusivity, and that it will have non-Talibs in it who are representative of different communities and different interests in Afghanistan," Blinken told reporters at a news conference, ahead of his important visit to Doha where the political office of the Taliban is based.

"We will see what, in fact, emerges, but I have to tell you that as important as what the government looks like is, more important still is what any government does. And that's what we're really looking at. We're looking at what actions, what policies any new Afghan government pursues. That's what matters the most," Blinken said on Friday.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan last month at lightning speed as the US withdrew its troops from the country.

The US withdrew all of its service members from Afghanistan on Tuesday, ending its military engagement in the country after 20 years of war.

"The expectation is to see inclusivity in government, but ultimately the expectation is to see a government that makes good on commitments that the Taliban have made, particularly in freedom of travel, not allowing Afghanistan to be used as a launching ground for terrorism directed at the US or any of the allies and partners, upholding the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities, and not engaging in reprisals," Blinken said.

"These are the things that we're looking at. And, again, not just us, many countries around the world," he said.

The US, Blinken said, is committed to looking at everything done from day one through the present and draw lessons from it.

"I think that there also needs to be, including across the State Department, a look back at the entire 20 years to understand the entire course of this war and engagement with Afghanistan and to ask the right questions and to learn the right lessons from that," he said.

The Biden administration has withheld officially recognising the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan but has engaged in close consultations with representatives in Doha, Qatar, and on the ground in Kabul.

Blinken said America's diplomacy with allies and partners continues to intensify.

"That diplomacy has already produced a statement signed by more than 100 countries and the UN Security Council resolution that makes clear the international community's expectations," he said.

Blinken will be travelling to Qatar and Germany to hold meetings to intensify diplomacy with its friends and allies on the current evolving situation in Afghanistan.

"On Sunday, I'll be heading to Doha where I'll meet with Qatari leaders to express our deep gratitude for all that they're doing to support the evacuation effort. I'll also have a chance to meet with Afghans, including our locally employed staff from the Embassy in Kabul, who are now safely in Doha preparing for their journey to the United States," he said.

From there, Blinken will be heading to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he will have a chance to meet Afghans awaiting processing to head to the US and the Americans who are staffing that effort.

"I'll also meet with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany, and we'll hold a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan with him live and then virtually with other partners that'll include more than 20 countries that all have a stake in helping to relocate and resettle Afghans and in holding the Taliban to their commitments," he said.

Later, Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson told reporters that Blinken has no plans to meet the Taliban leadership in Doha.

"There's currently no plans to do any meetings with the Taliban in Doha. This is very much focused on our relationship with Qatar, thanking them for the incredible support that they've given, as well as on the German side. That'll be a fundamental message throughout the trip," he said.

The US, he said, is watching very carefully and closely the evolving developments in Afghanistan.

"I think it's too early to make a firm judgment. Reports that we receive of violations of basic human rights and particularly reports about restrictions on women, girls, anything of that nature is of great concern and something we would definitely continue to raise," he said.

"At the same time, I would note that there was cooperation with the Taliban in order to affect the huge operation of the last few weeks, and so I think as we've said, the Taliban has made some good statements, or some positive statements is a better way to say it , but their actions are what is going to matter," he said.

"We are going to continue to really assess that. And I think even more broadly than that is they are not just the actions of any one individual but their ability to ensure that across the country they live up to the commitments that they've made," Thompson said.

ran's president is calling for elections in Afghanistan to determine the future of the country, where he hopes peace will return after Western troops have left and the Taliban have seized control.

Speaking on state TV on Saturday, Ebrahim Raisi said that the Afghan people should vote to determine their own government "as soon as possible."

"A government should be established there which is elected by the votes and the will of the people," he said.

"The Islamic Republic has always sought peace and calm in Afghanistan, and an end to bloodshed and fratricide, and the sovereignty of the people's will. We support a government elected by the Afghan people," he added.



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