Envoy tells UNSC future engagement with Taliban govt depend on Kabul’s action against TTP

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan has laid down new conditions for any future engagements between the international community and the Afghan Taliban in a clear and significant departure from its earlier stance that would certainly make the Kabul regime’s international recognition far more challenging.

In what was seen as policy announcement, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN said on Thursday that any process of engagement with the Afghan interim government should be conducted on the basis of its action against terrorist outfits, including the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Since the takeover of Kabul in August 2021, Pakistan has been urging the international community to stay engaged with the Afghan Taliban. Islamabad believed that the Afghan Taliban were a reality and there was no other way but to remain engaged with them despite reservations of the global community.

However, with tensions simmering between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the TTP attacks, Islamabad quietly abandoned the advocacy for the Afghan Taliban a few months ago. The Express Tribune was the first to break the story.

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Ambassador Munir Akram’s statement came at UN Security Council, which debated the current situation of Afghanistan. The envoy officially confirmed the policy shift and warned that a continued presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan constituted the most significant threat to Afghanistan itself and to the entire region and perhaps the world.

“Any process of engagement with the Afghan interim government should be conducted on the basis of the action that it takes against these terrorist organisations. Else, we will see the recurrence and proliferation of terrorism from Afghanistan as happened prior to 9/11, threatening not only the region but the entire world,” Ambassador Akram warned.

He said Pakistan hoped that Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu’s assessment will enable the Security Council and all relevant stakeholders in the international community to adopt a comprehensive, long-term and realistic roadmap for Afghanistan’s normalisation.

“Any process of engagement with the Afghan interim government must be constituted on the basis its response to the core concerns of the international community; respect for human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls; political inclusivity; and action to neutralise the terrorist organisations in Afghanistan not only Daesh, but also the TTP and other entities which threaten the security of Afghanistan’s neighbours,” he added.

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“While the interim authorities have reported some success in the fight against Daesh, the fact is that a number of terrorist groups are living in Afghanistan, evidently under the protection of the Afghan interim government,” he told the UNSC. Ambassador Akram stressed that Pakistan faced a major threat from the TTP its affiliates, which had been responsible for carrying out a series of organised cross-border terrorist attacks on the Pakistani soil causing considerable loss of civilians and soldiers and damaging the military and other installations.

“We have lost hundreds of our brave soldiers and civilians in these attacks just this year alone and last week, a TTP affiliated group carried out a heinous attack on our security personnel in Dera Ismail Khan, resulting in the loss of more than 23 precious lives.”

Ambassador Akram noted that those attacks had become more lethal and sophisticated, since the TTP terrorists acquired and used advanced military equipment. He added that those weapons obviously originated from the considerable stocks left behind In Afghanistan by foreign forces.

“How did the TTP – a listed terrorist organisation –secure these weapons. Pakistan demands that the United Nations – whether UNAMA or another agency – conduct a thorough investigation to elicit how these weapons got in the hands of the TTP and to identify ways of retrieving them,” he asked.

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Ambassador Akram said: “It is clear that the TTP has been given free rein to conduct cross-border attacks against Pakistan’s border outposts and other installations. We also have clear evidence that the TTP receives support from our main adversary.”

He urged the Security Council to invigorate the work of the 1988 Committee to secure action by the Afghan interim government against all those terrorist groups in Afghanistan and empower the monitoring team to analyse and inform the committee and the Security Council about progress made in the context of counter-terrorism in Afghanistan.

Defending Pakistan’s policy of evicting undocumented Afghans, Akram said Pakistan had paid an enormous price for its 40 years of generosity towards Afghanistan. “We continue to host 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees with little or no support from the international community,” he said.

“Since the Afghan interim government claims that peace has been restored in Afghanistan, it should work with the High Commission of Refugees to make preparations for the early repatriation of these Afghan refugees,” he said. Besides these registered refugees, the Pakistani envoy told the UNSC, there were another 2.2 million Afghans who were in Pakistan undocumented and illegally present there, including those 700,000 who crossed into the country after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

 

He said besides the security threat posed by terrorist ‘sleeper cells’, many of these illegals are involved in drug trafficking, operate property mafias and other crimes and the inflow of such large numbers has had a negative impact on Pakistan’s economy and jobs market. He said the current plan to repatriate illegal foreigners was an unavoidable compulsion on Pakistan, arising from a legitimate security, economic and social concerns. However, he insisted that the plan was being implemented in as humane way as possible.

“There is no forcible return, except for a number of Afghan criminals in our jails. More than 98% of the over 244,000 Afghan who departed through the Torkham [border point] last month, were voluntary returns. The Chamman crossing has a similar pattern,” the envoy said.

“We have made exceptions for those who have proof of registration (PoRs); for those who have the Afghan citizenship card and now also for those who are considered vulnerable. They are besides the 60,000 or more who are waiting for two years to be relocated to 3rd countries and we urge those 3rd countries to accelerate their process in order to receive these people, who they have agreed to receive as such and lightened the burden on Pakistan.”

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