Do Talibans live in Pakistan? Minister answers
Pakistan's interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said families of Afghanistan's Taliban live in his country, including in the capital city of Islamabad, and sometimes the members of the insurgent outfit are treated in local hospitals. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed comments come after another senior minister denied claims that there are any safe havens for the Taliban in Pakistan.
"Taliban families live here in Pakistan in areas like Rawat, Loi Ber, Bara Kahu and Tarnol," Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in an interview aired by private Pakistani TV channel Geo News on Sunday as he mentioned Islamabad's suburbs. "Sometimes their (fighters) dead bodies arrive and sometimes they come here to hospitals to get medical treatment,” Rashid told the Urdu-language network.
Pakistan is often accused of hosting and supporting the Taliban, who have been fighting the Afghanistan government for about the last two decades, and has always rejected allegations levelled by Afghan leaders that the Taliban use Pakistani soil to direct and sustain insurgent activities in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi denied the presence of Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Qureshi in an exclusive interview to Afghanistan news channel Tolo News said that the terrorist group's leaders "are in Afghanistan." He also denied the existence of such institutions in Pakistan and said he "has been hearing of these terms for now decades."
"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?" Qureshi said in the interview.
Qureshi was also asked whether the Taliban are "funded in Pakistan". To which he said, "These are very--those many things that have been going on for years. You're stuck in the old groove. Get out that groove, please. Get out of that groove. Now, listen, if you remain stuck in this, believe me, you will not be able to travel far. And we want you to travel far. We want reconciliation and peace."
The Taliban has intensified attacks against Afghan government forces since May 1 when the US-led international forces formally began withdrawing from the country.
Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan ruled out hosting American bases in Pakistan for military action inside Afghanistan, fearing it might lead to his country being "targeted in revenge attacks" by terrorists. “If Pakistan were to agree to host US bases, from which to bomb Afghanistan, and an Afghan civil war ensued, Pakistan would be targeted for revenge by terrorists again," he wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.
Khan has also said Pakistan will seal its border, the Durand Line, with Afghanistan if the Taliban attempts to take over the country.
(With agency inputs)