CNN's Becky Anderson sits down with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan for a wide ranging interview. Rejecting accusations of tacit support for the Taliban, Khan spoke about opening up the airways to Kabul and an aid route -- as well as relations with the US and the growing influence with China.
'It could go to chaos': Hear Pakistani PM's concern about Afghanistan
04:35 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi is the foreign minister of Pakistan, having served in that role formerly from 2008-2011 and again since 2018. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.

CNN  — 

Once again the world’s eyes are on Afghanistan. The international community is concerned. The challenge is to rise above the jostling of narratives to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi

More than four decades of conflict have exacted a heavy toll from Afghans. They are physically and emotionally scarred. They need an end to their misery. And no one wants to see them succeed more than Pakistan.

As if stricken by the proverbial Cassandra’s curse, Pakistan kept telling the arbiters of Afghanistan’s destiny that the Afghan conundrum did not lend itself to a military solution. We kept saying that Pakistan had nothing to gain from increasing Afghanistan’s woes, only to be greeted by cynicism and occasional derision.

But we persevered. Afghanistan is a brother and not a pawn on some chessboard of regional hegemonistic aspirations. Pakistan has suffered more than 80,000 casualties in its own war on terrorism in the last two decades, hosted more than 4 million refugees ungrudgingly, and incurred economic losses of over US $150 billion – a figure that makes the assistance received by Pakistan a pittance in comparison. (A wholehearted acknowledgement of that by the international community — and especially our allies — would be warranted.)

Blame games and unrealistic expectations tested us, but we remain steadfast in our commitment to stabilization of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s constructive role was instrumental in advancing the negotiations that evolved between the US and the Taliban, which concluded with a peace agreement, and the negotiations between the Taliban and the government of former President Ashraf Ghani held in Doha, Qatar.

After August 15, 2021 when the Taliban entered the Afghan capital and seized the presidential palace, Pakistan proved its sincerity by keeping its Embassy in Kabul open. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) helped evacuate functionaries of diplomatic missions, international organizations, NGOs and media entities.

Let me echo Prime Minister Imran Khan: Pakistan means well. Work with us to heal the wounds of Afghanistan. This is not the time for casting blame.

The tide of Afghanistan’s history has shifted, but we can usher in an era of stability in the region. The international community needs to realize that the new order of things in Afghanistan is not something that can be wished away or rendered insignificant through polemics and grandstanding.

Genuine empathy and a humanistic approach are needed. At the same time, we would like to urge the West to eschew the tendency to mold the Afghan society and body politic according to its own worldview. Pakistan is in favor of an inclusive approach respectful of the multi-ethnic character of Afghan society.

We support the protection of human rights, especially those of women and girls and of the most vulnerable sections of the Afghan population. We also want to see an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself, with its neighbors, and with the world. Like the rest of the international community, we want to ensure that Afghanistan never again turns into a sanctuary for terrorists.

It is heartening to note that the pronouncements coming from the Taliban are reflective of a desire to establish peace, enhance stability, and work for reconciliation. All of us should encourage and support those statements and signals.

In regard to international financial support, we must remain cognizant of the humanitarian consequences of abandoning Afghanistan. We are confident that even a small fraction of what was spent in Afghanistan in the last two decades would help the country get back on its feet. This would redound to the benefit of regional peace and stability, help combat narcotics trafficking, and prevent a serious refugee crisis which would bode ill, not only for the neighboring countries of Afghanistan but also for the West. The world must not abandon the Afghan people at this crucial juncture.

Let us work together to promote our shared interests and accomplish something for which future generations will laud us.