Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the world must engage with Afghanistan, stressing that the “Taliban are the best bet to get rid of Islamic State”.
In an interview with Middle East Eye, Khan also said all the regional countries that he has spoken to believe that it is a great opportunity because Kabul is a trade corridor between all our countries.
“What we would really like is that it is no longer either you are in the US camp or China camp. I feel it should be (about) what this whole region needs — economic ties, economic connectivity. That is what we are looking for,” he said.
US has really messed it up in Afghanistan: PM Imran
On the issues of possible sanctions on Kabul, Khan replied that it is a critical point for Afghanistan, adding that the world must engage with the country and if it pushes it away within the Taliban movement, then there will be hardliners. “And so it can easily go back to the Taliban of 2000, 20 years ago,” he said.
“So, therefore, a stable Afghanistan, which can then take on the Islamic State, and believe me Taliban are the best bet to get rid of ISIS.”
He stressed that sanctioning them is going to cause a huge humanitarian crisis. He continued that the United States has to “pull itself together”.
“They (people in the US) were imagining some sort of democracy, nation-building or liberated women, and suddenly, they find the Taliban are back. Unless America takes the lead, we are worried that there will be chaos in Afghanistan and we are the country which will be most affected by that.”
Taliban, which seized power in August and declared an Islamic emirate, are seeking international recognition and assistance to avoid a humanitarian disaster and ease Afghanistan’s economic crisis.
However, as the group transitions to a governing power, they have faced the threat of Islamic State’s Afghanistan chapter that has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in recent years.
US, UK warn citizens of threat to Kabul hotels
On October 8, a suicide bomb attack on worshippers at a Shia mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz killed at least 55 people, in the bloodiest assault since US forces left the country.
In August, during a chaotic evacuation of foreign nationals and at-risk Afghans, NATO countries issued a chorus of warnings about an imminent threat, telling people to stay away from Kabul airport.
Hours later, a suicide bomber detonated in a crowd gathered around one of the airport gates, killing scores of civilians and 13 American troops.
Speaking to TTP groups “from position of strength”
Meanwhile, Khan said that Pakistan is speaking to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and is trying to reconcile those elements who are willing to talk.
“Now we are trying to talk to those who can be reconciled because it’s from a position of strength. I always believed all insurgencies eventually end up on the dialogue table, like the IRA [Irish Republican Army] for instance,” he said, referring to the Northern Irish peace deal.
The PM further said that the Taliban government has told Pakistan that the TTP would not be allowed to launch attacks on Pakistan from inside Afghan territory.
China was the emerging power that would step into the vacuum
On being asked whether the region will “now pivot towards China as the investor and de facto security umbrella following US withdrawal in Afghanistan”, the PM responded that China was the emerging power that would step into the vacuum.
The PM was also inquired about Pakistan-China relations. “Pakistan and China’s relationship is probably one relationship which has stood with the test of time,” the PM replied.
Pressure will not change our ties with China, says PM Imran
He said China stood with Pakistan in all its ups and downs.
“So who was the country that came to help? We were going belly up. It was China that helped us. You always remember those who help you in the difficult times.”