Islamabad, Aug.28 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Advisor on Foreign and Security Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday said that Islamabad has been successful in removing many of the misconceptions that existed in the mind of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai with regard to the former’s role in extending support to the Taliban and to its perceived role in the aftermath of the NATO troops withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
In an interview given to Dawn TV, Aziz said that the Pakistan leadership had taken considerable pains to explain to President Karzai during his recent visit to Islamabad that Afghanistan has historically had an unwanted foreign presence on its soil, and most recently in the form of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the United States.
He said that it was emphasized during the discussions that countries have come and gone, but Pakistan had always been and would continue to be a neighbour that Kabul could trust.
Aziz candidly admitted that certain groups in Pakistan were responsible for fanning these misconceptions, which in turn, had contributed to an atmosphere of distrust between the governments of the two countries in recent times.
“We made it clear that we are not supporting any group and that we do have an influence on the Taliban,” Aziz said, adding that Islamabad’s Strategic Depth Policy, which was conceived in the 1980s by former army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg, and perceived to be aimed at achieving control over Afghanistan, was no longer relevant or in existence.
Pakistan, he said, was rather more worried about tribal regions on its border with Afghanistan ending up being a “Strategic Death” for “Stakeholders in Afghanistan”.
Commenting specifically on the Taliban and its leader/commander Mullah Omar, Aziz said that Karzai had been informed that Omar is unwilling to talk to him, but added that Pakistan is talking with Omar and others in the Taliban set-up to consider reconciliation talks with the Karzai regime in Kabul.
Karzai had also been told that there was a need to expand the membership of the High Peace Council to 80 or 90 members to facilitate broad-based engagement on all issues pertaining to Afghanistan in the run-up to the withdrawal of the foreign presence and thereafter.
Pakistan, he said, has offered Karzai that it will try to get Mullah Omar onboard to ensure a meeting of minds.
Aziz further revealed that Karzai understood that Pakistan can facilitate talks with the Taliban, and added that representatives of the armed forces were also present during the discussions, and that they had agreed that everyone would be onboard on the way forward.
Aziz said that Pakistan is against its soil being used by terrorists to launch attacks on other countries in the neighbourhood, and specifically was not interested in jeopardizing its relationship with Afghanistan.
He said Islamabad would always be in support of the Good Taliban as opposed to the Bad Taliban.
He said that it was also made clear to President Karzai that Pakistan was in favour of development-related initiatives in Afghanistan by any country, but not in favour of proxy wars, be it between Iran and Pakistan, or Pakistan and India.
In conclusion, he also said that as far as strategic talks with the U.S. were concerned, Washington has been urged not to see these ties evolve from the prism of Afghanistan now or even after 2014.
Pakistan, he said, has been a victim of terror as have other countries in the after math of the global war on terror that was launched by the Bush administration in September-October 2000. (ANI)