NEW YORK: Pakistan told the 15 member UN Security Council that Taliban “safe havens” are inside Afghanistan not outside, given that large areas of that country are now under the Taliban’s control.
Speaking in the debate on Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi said that the resilience of the insurgency in Afghanistan cannot be explained away by convenient references to external “safe havens” or “support centers”.
Pakistan, she asserted, is committed not to allow its territory to be used for terrorism against other countries. Pakistan’s successive military operations had eliminating all terrorist and militant groups from its tribal territory bordering Afghanistan.
She told the Council that Pakistan is “implementing border controls, including the fencing and monitoring of vulnerable sections of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.”
In response to some provocative remarks by her Afghan counterpart in the debate she said as a country that was still hosting over 2 million Afghan refugees, Pakistan expects gratitude not hostility from Afghan government.
Referring to the political differences that have become more pronounced recently within the Afghan Government, Ambassador Lodhi said these have exacerbated the situation at a time when the country was faced with the twin challenge of the Taliban insurgency and terrorism promoted by ISIS and its affiliates, including TTP and JUI. These violent groups not only threaten Afghanistan and its neighbors but also pose a global terrorist threat, she asserted.
She said that it had been Pakistan’s consistent position that peace could be restored only through a negotiated settlement between Kabul and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Afghanistan.
“This”, she pointed out has also long been the consensus of the international community,” noting that a negotiated peace was also endorsed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who recently visited Kabul.
She said that “the promotion of a political settlement and the pursuit of a military solution in Afghanistan are mutually incompatible.” Continued reliance on a military option, or enhancing troop numbers without an accompanying political strategy, would only lead to more violence and bloodshed, Ambassador Lodhi told the Security Council.
“It would not yield a political settlement.”
Stressing the need to find a negotiated solution she said that “Over the years, Pakistan has done what it can, when asked, to help facilitate such a negotiated settlement.”
She referred in this regard to the 2015 Murree talks and efforts under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) framework; as also her country’s engagement with the Heart of Asia conference, International Contact Group, Moscow Format, and, most recently, the Kabul process, among others.
But she made it clear that while others could help by promoting a negotiated settlement, peace could only be negotiated when the Afghan parties desired it and eschewed a military solution.
She said “today there is every reason for the Afghan parties, and their friends, to pursue the path of a negotiated peace. All of them face a common threat from ISIS and the terrorist groups affiliated with it.”
“Among them, the TTP and the Jamat ul Ahrar target Pakistan from their bases in Afghanistan.”
In her statement, the Pakistani envoy also referred to the recent meeting in Astana earlier this month between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ashraf Ghani in which the two leaders agreed to re-energize Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the region. They also agreed to revitalize the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
She said that apart from Afghanistan itself, there is no country other than Pakistan, which has suffered more from the wars and violence that have engulfed Afghanistan for over 35 years.
“There is no other country, which will gain more from peace in Afghanistan,” she added.