New Delhi: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has alleged that India is using Afghanistan for “carrying out terrorist activities” in Pakistan. In an interview to Afghanistan news channel Tolo News, Qureshi also “passed” a question on whether he, like his PM Imran Khan, thinks Osama bin Laden is a “martyr”.
During the interview, Qureshi also said that New Delhi’s presence in Kabul is “larger than it ought to be” since these two countries do not share a border.
“We feel that, at times we feel that, you know, you (Afghanistan) don’t share a border with India. Obviously, you have sovereign relations and you have bilateral relation and you have every right to have sovereign and bilateral relations with India. You trade with India, they come and carry out development work there. That’s fine, that’s completely fine with us. But at times we feel that their presence is perhaps larger than it ought to be because they don’t share a border with you,” Qureshi said.
He also said India’s presence in Afghanistan bothers him because he believes New Delhi is using Kabul’s soil against Pakistan “by carrying out terrorist activities”.
“You know, we have intelligence, we have information, we have shared that, and you know, we have very famous person who is admitted to carrying out subversive activities, terrorist activities, in Pakistan, in Balochistan.
“What we know is that there are people in Afghanistan who have been attacking my country. There are outside forces who are using their presence in Afghanistan to undermine Pakistan,” he added.
When he was asked whether his indication is towards India, Qureshi, in an indirect reference, said: “Well, who are undermining Pakistan, who are carrying out subversive activities in Balochistan … And, they are there. And they are funding and they are training and they are doing everything possible, but we’re not allying that to come between us. Despite all that, we want Afghanistan to be peaceful, stable and prosperous.”
He also said that Pakistan is not supporting terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
‘Osama bin Laden, a martyr? I will let it pass’
Interestingly, Qureshi ducked a question posed to him during the interview on Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
On being asked if he agrees with Imran Khan’s remark that Osama bin Laden is a “martyr”, Qureshi said the prime minister was quoted out of context.
“He was quoted out of context. And, a particular section of the media pair it up.”
On being prodded further whether he disagrees with what his Prime Minister had said, Qureshi took a deep breath, paused and then blurted: “I will let that pass”.
Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan by special forces of the US.
‘India has alienated Kashmiris further’
On the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, Qureshi said India “vitiated the climate” by scrapping Article 370, although he did not directly mention it.
He also said that despite Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated attempts for reconciliation with India, New Delhi did not respond and “mishandled” the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
“… he (Imran Khan) said you take one step towards peace we will take two. Unfortunately, they did not reciprocate. Unfortunately, they took steps and measures that vitiated the climate. Despite that, despite that we think that the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir is a political situation, it is being mishandled,” Qureshi said.
“India today with the measures of 5th of August 2019 has alienated the Kashmiris further, they have not helped themselves and today the situation over there is very delicate and simmering,” he added.
‘Afghanistan needs to engage with Taliban’
Qureshi also denied claims that there are any safe havens for the Taliban in Pakistan.
He said the Taliban leaders — Hibatullah Akhundzada, Siraj Haqqani, Mullah Yaqub, Shaikh Hakim — keep traveling to Islamabad for facilitating the peace process just as they travel to Doha and Moscow, adding that the Afghanistan government needs to engage with the Taliban.
“You (Afghan government) need to engage with them. We’re only engaging with them to facilitate the peace process. We’re trying to be helpful. We’re trying to be constructive. You know, many have started to recognising that internationally, but there are some in Afghanistan who still have that mental blockage of accepting the fact that Pakistan is being genuine, is being constructive and is sincere because Pakistan feels it is Pakistan’s enlightened interest that there is peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.
Qureshi added, “Why can’t people in Afghanistan understand that, why can’t people in Afghanistan, you know — I think people of Afghanistan understand that, generally speaking, because the people of Afghanistan in my view want peace. They have had enough of war.”
Kabul making Pakistan a ‘scapegoat’
He also claimed that Afghanistan is making Pakistan the “scapegoat” since the peace process and the intra-Afghan dialogue, which is aimed at mainstreaming the Taliban in Afghanistan’s democratic setup, is not getting amicably concluded.
“When things are not moving in the right direction, you’re looking for the scapegoats and the favourite scapegoat you have is Pakistan. When there’s failure within, you blame Pakistan for that. Pakistan is not responsible for the failure within. Pakistan is not responsible for the squabbling that is going on in Afghanistan, he said, adding that Pakistan is not responsible if the Afghan leadership “cannot sit and work out a peace deal”.
“We’re not responsible for that. It’s yours. We’re saying we want to be helpful.”
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)