Pak foreign minister clears Taliban of violence, accuses India of terror acts

Jun 18, 2021 01:21 PM IST

Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the remarks in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News, excerpts of which were posted on the channel’s Twitter feed

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has sought to absolve the Taliban for the high levels of violence in Afghanistan and accused India of “carrying out terrorist activities” from Afghan soil, drawing sharp criticism from Pakistani and Afghan leaders on Friday.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. (HT Archive)
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. (HT Archive)

Qureshi made the remarks in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News, excerpts of which were posted on the channel’s Twitter feed. He also sought to question the need for India to have a large presence in Afghanistan simply on the ground that the two countries do not share a border.

Asked about the high levels of violence in Afghanistan amid popular perceptions that the Taliban are responsible for a series of bombings and targeted assassinations of government officials, Qureshi replied: “Who’s responsible for that? Again, if you try and create this impression that the violence is high because of Taliban...again, that would be an exaggeration. Why do I say that? Aren’t there other elements over there who are playing the role of a spoiler.”

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Responding to a question on the forces responsible for the violence, he said: “Daesh, like forces within Afghanistan...who gain from the war economy, who want to perpetuate their power, who are not seeing beyond their nose and just want to hang on to power.”

Talking about India’s presence in Afghanistan, Qureshi sought to perpetuate the myth pushed by the Pakistani security establishment that there are more than four Indian consulates on Afghan soil. He also contended that India’s presence in Afghanistan is “larger than it ought to be” and that India is “carrying out terrorist activities” from Afghan soil.

Asked how many Indian consulates there are in Afghanistan, he replied: “Well, on paper, perhaps four.”

Responding to a question on whether he doubted this figure, he said, “No, I’m saying we feel that, at times, you don’t share a border with India. Obviously, you have sovereign relations and you have bilateral relations, and you have every right to have sovereign and bilateral relations with India. You have trade with India, they come and carry out development work there, that’s completely fine with us.”

He added, “But at times we feel that their presence is perhaps larger than it ought to be because they...don’t share a border with you.”

Qureshi said it would bother him if India uses “your [Afghan] soil against us. Asked if and how India is using Afghan soil for anti-Pakistan activities, he said: “Yes, they are...By carrying out terrorist activities.”

There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Qureshi’s comments. In the past, New Delhi has rubbished Islamabad’s claims that Afghan soil is being used for anti-Pakistan activities, saying its focus in Afghanistan is on development and reconstruction activities. India is currently the largest regional donor in Afghanistan with pledges of about $3 billion.

Pakistan’s security establishment has also sought to perpetuate the myth that India has dozens of consulates in Afghanistan. India has only four consulates in Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. The consulates in Herat and Jalaabad were closed last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the security situation and are yet to be reopened.

Qureshi’s comments drew criticism from former Pakistani parliamentarian and prominent Pashtun activist Afrasiab Khattak, who said the Taliban wouldn’t need a foreign minister “when they already have one” in Qureshi, and Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, who contended that Pakistan’s foreign minister was “uninformed, ignorant or [an] accomplice” of the Taliban.

“Why would Taliban need another foreign minister when they already have one? Pakistan’s ‘neutrality’ in Afghanistan was never credible but it has finally thrown away even that pretension. On its way to fully internalising the Afghan conflict, is Pak sure it can chew what it’s biting?” Khattak tweeted.

Mohib referred to Qureshi’s remarks absolving the Taliban for the increased violence and said in a tweet: “This comes as Taliban launches violent offensives against Afghan people across the country, we know how & why they continue to be enabled to do this. Quraishi is either uninformed, ignorant or accomplice. Maybe he also rejects that Osama [bin Laden] was found next to Pakistani Military HQ.”

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