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Pakistan urges ‘sustained engagement’ with Taliban

Argues isolation won’t trigger change in the group’s policies

Pakistan has called for “sustained engagement” with the Taliban government, not by isolating it, to advance international community’s objectives in Afghanistan with respect to human rights, political inclusivity and counter-terrorism.

“The isolation of the Afghan Interim Government is not in the interest of either the Afghan people or the international community,” Ambassador Munir Akram told the UN Security Council on Monday, referring to the disagreement within the 15-member body on the resumption of the travel ban exemption for the 13 Taliban leaders.

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“We are disturbed by the disagreement within the Council on the resumption of the travel ban exemption for the 13 Taliban leaders,” the Pakistani envoy said, warning that a geopolitical divergence on Afghanistan between major powers would have serious implications for the war-ravaged country and the entire region. A short-term travel waiver that had been granted to 13 Taliban leaders expired on August 19 because UN Security Council members did not agree to extend it.

Since 1999, under Security Council Resolution 1267, 151 Taliban leaders have been banned from traveling abroad because of their alleged links to international terrorism. The US government, which fought the Taliban for two decades in Afghanistan and has designated several Taliban leaders as international terrorists, has been pushing for “strictly limited” diplomatic engagement with the Taliban.

In his remarks, Ambassador Akram said, “What could not be imposed by force is unlikely to be secured by sanctions, asset freezes or travel bans.” He added, “While we appreciate the frustration of many governments with the non-fulfillment of early promises made by the Taliban on girls and women’s education, human rights, inclusivity and counter-terrorism, isolating the Kabul leadership is unlikely to persuade it to change its policies, much less its ideology.”

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The Pakistani envoy said the international community’s primary interest is the restoration of sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan, to avoid another civil war.  Also vital is continued humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan, he said, urging the international community to fulfill the UN Secretary-General’s call for $4.2 billion in humanitarian assistance and economic support to its people.

Ambassador Akram called for the release of all of Afghanistan’s frozen national reserves and the creation of effective mechanisms for their disbursement to and use by the Afghan people, warning that without such support, economic collapse and chaos may be the consequence. “The early resumption of reconstruction and implementation of the shovel-ready connectivity projects with Central Asia and other neighbours including the extension of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor to Afghanistan can consolidate economic stabilization in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan, he said, expects the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan’s territory from being utilized for terrorism against neighbours or any other country. Pakistan, he added, will support all sincere efforts by the Afghan Interim Government to neutralize and eliminate the terrorist groups, including Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), while fully respecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “Certain spoilers however, who wish to encourage terrorism against Pakistan from Afghan soil must be vigorously dissuaded. The objectives are focus on a strategic advantage against Pakistan and its friends, we will resistant vigorously.”

In response to its cooperation, he said, the Taliban government naturally desires reciprocal steps, including humanitarian economic and financial assistance, early removal of sanctions and eventual diplomatic recognition. “These steps must not be perceived in Kabul as a ‘bridge too far’,” the Pakistani envoy said, adding that it was only through continued engagement and mutual accommodation that peace and security will be restored in Afghanistan.

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