Sunday Jul 11, 2021
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed said Sunday Pakistan will stand by its decision to not provide air bases to the United States, as the region's politics heads towards a new direction following the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
"Pakistan aspires for peace in Afghanistan," the interior minister said while addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi, stressing that the government and Opposition were on the same page in this regard.
Rasheed's statement comes after US President Joe Biden last week announced the military mission in Afghanistan would end on Aug 31 despite new concerns about the possibility of a civil war.
"We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build," Biden had said. "It's the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country."
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, earlier this month, had also said Pakistan would not give airbases to the US if the government has decided against it, as he responded to questions posed by journalists after he had attended a military and intelligence briefing to parliamentarians on national security and the Afghanistan situation.
"It is important, not only for Pakistan, but the entire region to initiate talks with the Afghan Taliban," the interior minister said.
"No superpower can ignore Pakistan [...] there is no pressure on us," he said and reiterated that the country would not provide bases to anyone for carrying out operations in Afghanistan.
The interior minister said that India faced "embarrassment" in Afghanistan and there was no other option for New Delhi to withdraw its personnel from there.
Shedding light on why peace in war-torn Afghanistan was necessary, he said China's investment would not bear fruit unless there was stability in Afghanistan.
He said India was carrying out terrorist activities in Afghanistan and over the past 40 years, was conveying false news about Pakistan to the world.
Rasheed said Pakistan's policy has changed, just like the "Taliban have changed" and asserted that Islamabad would accept any government that has the backing of the Afghan people.
Speaking about border passings with Afghanistan, the minister said only the "Torkham and Chaman borders will remain open", adding that vaccinated Pakistanis would only be allowed to enter the country.
Last month, PM Imran Khan, in an interview with Jonathan Swan of HBO Axios, had clearly said that Pakistan will not give its bases to the US for operations in Afghanistan after the latter's troops' withdrawal.
The interior minister, lashing out at the Opposition leaders, said that when they make speeches against Prime Minister Imran Khan during their election campaigns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, it makes their intentions clear.
"They have political issues [...] and may Allah resolve it," he said.
Rasheed said the US and UK were aware of the many bank accounts the Opposition leaders had there, criticising them for only defending the stance of the people of occupied Kashmir on TV.
"Imran Khan will fight for the Kashmir cause across the globe and PTI will form its government in the upcoming AJK elections," he said, adding: "PTI is a national party and Pakistan Army is our national army."
The 11th AJK Legislative Assembly elections will be held on July 25.
The interior minister, addressing a public rally, held by PTI candidate Javed Butt — who will contest on LA-43 — said that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and PML-N Vice-President Maryam were resorting to non-parliamentary language and said that only they were claiming of rigging in the elections.