Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said that with the peace deal inked in Doha last week between the US and Taliban, “a new ray of hope has emerged” for the decades-long war in Afghanistan to finally end.
His remarks came during a session of the Senate in which he provided a briefing on the peace deal. They came as Afghanistan saw an uptick in violence once more following a brief reprieve from a ceasefire agreement.
At least 20 Afghan soldiers and policemen were killed in Taliban attacks today, with the US launching an airstrike to ‘defend’ Afghan forces.
Qureshi, however, expressed confidence that peace will be secured in Afghanistan.
“The road ahead will be difficult; there will be many hurdles but despite that we are hopeful” he said, adding: “The whole world has accepted that a political solution is the only way forward and the Afghan people also appear to agree.”
The foreign minister said that the use of force has already been tried and now it is time to tread an alternate path — an approach Pakistan had been recommending for a while and had finally been successful in convincing others of. “
“Pakistan is not a party to the issues between the US and Afghanistan,” Qureshi was quick to warn. “Our role is that of a facilitator.”
“These decisions have to be made by Afghanistan, as is their right.”
He said that the Taliban used to say that their fight is against the coalition forces. “When the possibility of a withdrawal of forces emerged, talks began to take place.”
Qureshi said that as part of the withdrawal process, five military bases will first be vacated and the process will take 14 months to complete.
“Owing to past experiences, it was recommended that the withdrawal not take place all at once,” said the foreign minister.
He said that the US had been fearful of being targeted in an attack similar to that of 9/11. “It will take some time for the lack of trust to dissipate.”
Speaking of the release of prisoners, a key component of the peace deal, the foreign minister said that the measure will have to be “two-sided”.
He said that the prisoners being held by the Taliban will also have to be released. “We hope that the parties will be able to decide the matter amicably.”
Qureshi said that it will only take this one step after which other things should naturally follow for the realisation of peace.
“Peace will only be possible when all Afghan parties are on the same page,” he said.
He said that intra Afghan dialogue will soon commence and the offer made by Norway to host the talks is still on the table. “We will hopefully be able to sit down and decide where the talks should be held.”
Qureshi said that restrictions on Afghanistan will be reviewed and that the US will reach out to the UN Security Council so that Afghan representatives can be removed from the United Nations’ roster.
The foreign minister said that the Taliban had expressed their willingness to stop targeting American and coalition forces and that the use of Afghan soil by Al-Qaeda or anyone else against the US or their allies will not be allowed. He said that those “who are involved in terrorist activities will not be allowed to engage in fund raising”.
“We do not wish for the [law and order] situation in Afghanistan to witness a decline. Such a decline will not be of benefit to anyone in the region.”
Qureshi said that as part of confidence building measures, the US had committed to the development of the country.
He said that ratification of the peace deal will be done by the Security Council following which the agreement will enjoy international recognition and support.