Pakistan can’t fight Afghanistan’s war on its soil: Sartaj Aziz
Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's adviser on foreign affairs, speaks during a news conference in Kabul July 21, 2013. Aziz denied on Sunday backing Afghanistan's breakup or planning to end the Afghan war with a power-sharing role for the Taliban during a fence-mending visit to Kabul aimed at lowering cross-border tension. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT)
Afghan delegation visits Islamabad today for discussions on Torkham crossing, border management. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Sunday said the United States wanted Pakistan to act against the Afghan Taliban but “Pakistan cannot fight Afghanistan’s war on its own soil”. In an interview with the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV), Sartaj maintained that US authorities had the “misconception” that Pakistan is backing certain Taliban groups or the Haqqani network, while in reality Pakistan has effectively demolished their whole infrastructure during the anti-terrorist operation Zarb-e-Azb. “Most of the groups fighting in Afghanistan are fighting from within Afghanistan,” he added. The adviser, to a question regarding the peace dialogue, said that Pakistan had succeeded in forming the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) which had formed a good working mechanism. “Our viewpoint was that you (NATO and ISAF) have been fighting for the last 15 years but could not bring peace, now dialogue remains the only option, even if the Taliban cannot occupy Afghanistan they can still continue the fight for years to come,” Sartaj went on to add.
He, however, deplored that both Afghan authorities and Taliban were divided over the issue of talks. “We can only bring Taliban to the negotiating table using our influence, but ultimately Afghanistan has to talk with them, they (Afghan government) should strengthen their position on the ground and secondly they should offer them (Taliban) something which they cannot gain on the battlefield. In the end, the process should be consistent,” the adviser said. He expressed hope if situation on the ground remained favourable for the Afghanistan government, peace talks could start. In regards to the recent border tensions with Afghanistan, Sartaj said, “A strong and regulated border was in the interest of both the countries”. He added that he hopes visit of Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister would help resolve the issue on Monday.
To another question, the adviser said during the current government’s tenure, the bilateral relations were restored on a larger scale but Pakistan had rejected US pressure on the country’s nuclear programme. “It is a matter of our national security.” He said that when the incumbent government came to power, the US-Pakistan relations were at their lowest ebb due to Raymond Davis, Salala attack and the Abbottabad issue, but the present set-up has revived the strategic dialogue with US and urged has the US to extend cooperation with Pakistan on all levels despite a change in US priorities for the region. Earlier in another interview with international media, Sartaj said the ongoing construction of a gate at the Torkham crossing could not be halted, adding that Pakistan was not violating any bilateral agreement. Sartaj said that Pakistan was constructing the gate in its own territory and did not require permission from anyone.
“Terrorism cannot be brought under control until the formation of an effective border management system,” the adviser said, adding that steps such as showing travel documents at the border were in favour of both the countries. Aziz also said that people from Afghanistan were happy over reopening of the Torkham crossing.
The adviser said that if any country attacked Pakistan then it would be given a befitting response.
He clarified that Pakistan had informed the Afghan authorities that from June 1 no one would be allowed to cross the border without travel documents.
He said that Pakistan had not breached any agreement by constructing a gate at the Torkham border, adding that the gate was being constructed in Pakistan’s territory and was 30-35km away from the border.
Meanwhile, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai will be visiting Islamabad on Monday (today) for discussions on the issues related to Torkham crossing as well as other matters pertaining to border management.
The visit of a delegation from Kabul comes on the heels of an invitation by Sartaj Aziz.
In a statement, the Foreign Office said that Pakistan looked forward to meaningful deliberations between the two sides to promote bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the region.