DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: Prime Minister Imran Khan has underlined that the international community must approach the new reality in Afghanistan with a new perspective, based on a realistic assessment and pragmatic approach.
In his address to the Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on “Outreach on Afghanistan” held in Dushanbe on Friday, the prime minister said that abandoning Afghanistan could take us back to an unstable situation resulting in civil strife, negative spill-over effect on neighboring countries, an outflow of refugees, rise in terrorist incidents, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime.
“Engagement, therefore, in our view, is the only way forward,” Imran Khan remarked.
The following are remarks by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of SCO and CSTO on “Outreach on Afghanistan” in Dushanbe on September 17, 2021;
It is a privilege to attend this unprecedented joint session of SCO and CSTO on Afghanistan — an issue that is rightfully the focus of global attention today.
I am sure our deliberations today will strengthen our collective resolve to promote what a common Afghan has been desperately seeking for the last 40 years — a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.
As a direct neighbor deeply impacted by the negative fall-out for decades, Pakistan has a vital stake in a peaceful outcome.
Afghanistan, today, is at a historic crossroad.
After 40 years of conflict and instability, there is a distinct possibility of finally ending the war and establishing sustainable peace.
The situation has evolved to this point in a rather unexpected way.
The foreign forces had to withdraw one day; we wish this had proceeded in a more certain and predictable manner.
The meltdown of Afghan security forces and the collapse of the Afghanistan government was as sudden as it was unanticipated.
Yet, the transition occurred without any bloodshed, which for Pakistan is a matter of great relief.
The prospect of a civil war which was our biggest worry seems to have been averted, for now.
The much-dreaded mass exodus of refugees has fortunately not materialized.
The impending humanitarian crisis and a possible economic meltdown pose the two most urgent and formidable challenges.
The transition of Afghanistan from an economy which depended upon foreign aid and was a war economy to a sustainable one will also be a huge challenge.
At this moment, there are two stark choices before the international community: Enhance engagement or abandon Afghanistan again as happened after Soviet withdrawal.
Instability in Afghanistan, as rightly pointed out by our great poet Allama Iqbal, impacts the entire region, and stability in Afghanistan will benefit the region as a whole.
Abandoning Afghanistan could take us back to an unstable situation resulting in civil strife, negative spill-over effect on neighboring countries, an outflow of refugees, rise in terrorist incidents, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime.
Engagement, therefore, in our view, is the only way forward.
The international community must approach the new reality in Afghanistan with a new perspective, based on a realistic assessment and pragmatic approach.
Our core collective interest has to be to help stabilize the security situation, prevent any renewed conflict and prevent a mass exodus.
It is equally in our interest to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for any terrorist entity. For this, the Taliban must take every measure to honor their commitments.
The promise of an inclusive political structure should also be fulfilled. Peace will only be consolidated with national reconciliation.
At the same time, attempts to demonize the Taliban and fuel internal tensions should be rejected.
Such a myopic and unwise approach being adopted by some will only compound the challenges, not resolve them.
The international community must reach out to reaffirm their support and solidarity with the Afghan people at this critical juncture.
Sustained international humanitarian assistance and economic support will save lives and underpin stability.
Allowing Afghanistan’s frozen assets to be used for the welfare of the Afghan people will also be a step in the right direction.
It would be prudent to handle these matters impacting the human condition in Afghanistan, without politicization.
Being an immediate neighbor, Pakistan’s consistent policy has been of supporting Afghanistan on its path of peace, progress, and prosperity.
We steadfastly supported the Afghan peace process and always maintained that there was no military solution.
At the same time, we underlined the imperative of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political solution.
Under the new situation, we have remained constructively engaged. We kept our borders open to facilitate regular movement and let bilateral as well as transit trade flow.
We have dispatched several plane-loads of food and medicines to help address the humanitarian needs of Afghans.
Pakistan remains firmly committed to a stable, sovereign, and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and its neighbours.
The SCO and CSTO naturally have a vested interest in secure borders, a region free from the terrorist threat, and enhanced economic integration and connectivity.
Let’s work in tandem to assist Afghanistan on its way to peace, stability, and prosperity and pray that after 40 years the people of Afghanistan will finally see peace and stability.
I thank you!”