Saturday Sep 18, 2021

FM Qureshi to visit UK to discuss Afghanistan, other issues

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on September 9, 2021. — AFP/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on September 9, 2021. — AFP/File

  • FM Qureshi to meet British officials, address key defence think tank.
  • Foreign minister will also meet the British-Pakistani community.
  • Foreign minister is scheduled to be in UK from September 26-29.
  • Details of visit to be officially announced soon.

LONDON: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be visiting the United Kingdom to hold talks with British officials on Afghanistan and other issues.

The foreign minister will be in London from September 26-29, a government source told Geo News.

During his visit, Shah Mahmood Qureshi will meet senior British government officials, including those responsible for dealing with Afghanistan and the wider South Asian region.

The foreign minister will also address a key defence think tank during his visit and will hold talks with British-Pakistani community leaders.

The source said that details of the foreign minister’s UK visit have been finalised and will be officially announced soon.

The foreign minister, in a recent interview to The Independent, had said the UK should “accept the new reality” in Afghanistan and deliver immediate aid to the Taliban-run country, warning that isolating the Taliban authorities would lead to economic collapse, “anarchy”, and “chaos”.

He said the UK and its Western allies were not doing enough to engage with the Taliban administration or to avert a burgeoning humanitarian crisis and urged the West to provide supplies with no political conditions attached.

“My message [to the UK] is that there is a new reality in Afghanistan. Accept the new reality and let us work to achieve our objectives,” Qureshi said.

The foreign minister warned that Pakistan would not be willing to take in any more Afghan refugees as it is already hosting several million from decades of past conflicts.

The news of his visit comes a day after UK Secretary of State for Transport Rt Hon Grant Shapps had said Pakistan would finally be removed from Britain's red list on September 22.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh, Kenya, Turkey, Egypt, and the Maldives are among the eight countries that are set to be removed from England's red list, according to the British official.

'Instability may affect all neighbouring countries'

Stressing the need for an inclusive government in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that instability in the war-torn country could affect all the neighbouring countries.

In an interview to Russia Today (RT) television, PM Imran Khan said that inclusive government is the only way to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was going through a crucial period, the prime minister said, adding that either it would move towards stability after wars for four decades or it would go in a wrong direction and resultantly chaos and huge humanitarian and refugee crises would affect all the neighbours of the country.

“We think that in the interest of Afghanistan and for long term stability an inclusive government should be formed to strengthen unity there,” he added.

NSA urges for constructive engagement with Taliban 

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said that it is the collective responsibility of the international community not to create a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

In an article published in UK-based online newspaper The Independent, Yusuf stressed that "walking away from Afghanistan would be tantamount to giving up on the millions of Afghans that remain inside the country".

He said the Taliban have signalled their intention to work with the international community, which opens up space for the world to constructively engage with Afghanistan.

Pakistan supported the idea of a negotiated political settlement as the only way to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly, said Yusuf, adding that Pakistan was badly affected by the war in Afghanistan.

The NSA said Pakistan lost more than 80,000 lives [in the Afghanistan war] and bore more than $150 billion dollars in economic losses.

Pakistan's diplomatic efforts for engagement with Afghans

In recent days, Pakistan has engaged in a range of diplomatic efforts to get both regional and Western powers to work with the Afghanistan government in the interest of regional stability as well as humanitarianism.

FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi had undertook a four-nation tour to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran to exchange views with them regarding the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon accepted Pakistan’s proposal for adopting a cohesive approach in achieving the goal to establish peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.

Qureshi, at the conclusion of his tour, said that the neighbouring countries are "fully aware" of the situation in Afghanistan and they are "realistic" about it.

UK foreign secretary Raab and Qureshi also agreed on the importance of engagement with the Afghans.

"We do see the importance of being able to engage and having a direct line of communication," said Raab, in a joint press conference with Qureshi in Islamabad.

Qureshi also held similar conversations with his German and Dutch counterparts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed the Afghan Taliban's recent statements in which they have promised no retribution and assured to uphold human rights in the country.

Haas said it would be better if a broad-based, inclusive government was formed in Afghanistan.

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said the European Union will hopefully put together a new strategy on how to deal with the possible risk and continue to build a counter-terrorism strategy to focus on humanitarian needs to ensure that requirements of the people of Afghanistan, women and girls, ethnic minorities, young men and women are met.

In an interview with Sky News earlier this month, Qureshi had said that the international community has to weigh its options now — whether to choose engagement or isolation when it comes to Afghanistan.

Of isolation, he said: "It's a dangerous option. That's an option of abandonment, of Afghan people. Of people. I'm talking of the people.”

“That's the mistake that was committed in the 90s. I would urge the international community not to repeat the same mistake again,” he said, adding that if this happens “it could lead to a civil war, things could become chaotic, there could be anarchy”.

He said that will moreover give space to "the organisations that we all dread", the international terrorist organisations whose footprint we do not want growing.

When asked whether he wants the international community to recognise the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, the federal minister said that he only feels that it is important to "engage" with the Taliban because the “consequences of disengagement are far worse.”