Tuesday Jun 22, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, wrote that Pakistan is ready to be a US partner for peace in Afghanistan, but will not host US bases and avoid risking further conflict.
The prime minister highlighted the risks of giving military bases to the US, which according to him, will bring more destruction to the country.
Amid the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the US is looking for options to keep a close eye on the region and is talking to other countries for it. Pakistan, however, has told the US that it will not give its bases and reiterated Islamabad’s commitment to Afghan peace.
“If Pakistan were to agree to host US bases, from which to bomb Afghanistan, and an Afghan civil war ensued, Pakistan would be targeted for revenge by terrorists again. We simply cannot afford this. We have already paid too heavy a price,” he stated.
He said that Pakistan and the US have the same interest in that long-suffering country: a political settlement, stability, economic development and the denial of any haven for terrorists.
Making it clear that Pakistan has no favourities in Afghanistan, he stressed upon a negotiated settlement of the conflict and inclusion of the Afghan Taliban in any form of the government for its success.
“Our country has suffered so much from the wars in Afghanistan. More than 70,000 Pakistanis have been killed. While the United States provided $20 billion in aid, losses to the Pakistani economy have exceeded $150 billion,” he wrote.
Recalling his opposition to Pakistan joining the US-led war, the prime minister said the country was “targeted as a collaborator, leading to terrorism against our country from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other groups”.
“US drone attacks, which I warned against, didn’t win the war, but they did create hatred for Americans, swelling the ranks of terrorist groups against both our countries.”
PM Khan warned of the dangers of another civil war breaking out in the war-torn country in case a political settlement was not achieved.
“There are more than 3 million Afghan refugees in our country — if there is further civil war, instead of a political settlement, there will be many more refugees, destabilizing and further impoverishing the frontier areas on our border. Most of the Taliban are from the Pashtun ethnic group — and more than half the Pashtuns live on our side of the border. We are even now fencing this historically open border almost completely.”
Arguing against giving military bases to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for action inside Afghanistan, he said if the United States, with the most powerful military machine in history, couldn’t win the war from inside Afghanistan after 20 years, how would America do it from the bases in Pakistan?
The prime minister also mentioned the dividends the region would get after peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s desire for increased trade and connectivity with Central Asia for an economic uplift.
“This is why we have done a lot of real diplomatic heavy lifting to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, first with the Americans, and then with the Afghan government,” the prime minister wrote, highlighting Pakistan’s efforts for peace.
“We know that if the Taliban tries to declare a military victory, it will lead to endless bloodshed. We hope the Afghan government will also show more flexibility in the talks, and stop blaming Pakistan, as we are doing everything we can short of military action.”
The premier added that all the neighbours of Afghanistan and regional powers want peace and stability in the country.
“Further military action is futile. If we share this responsibility, Afghanistan, once synonymous with the ‘Great Game’ and regional rivalries, could instead emerge as a model of regional cooperation,” he concluded.