No plan to downgrade ties with Kabul: FO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday said it had no plans to downgrade diplomatic ties with Afghanistan, insisting negative comments by some elements in the neighbouring country cannot be allowed to impact the “important relationship.”

The statement by Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafiz Chaudhri at a weekly news briefing here came against the backdrop of recent strain in Kabul-Islamabad ties.

The relations between the two countries, which have already been struggling to overcome the trust deficit, suffered a setback after Afghanistan withdrew its ambassador in the wake of the alleged abduction of his daughter.

What further hampered efforts to remove misgivings were the statements coming from Kabul blaming Pakistan for the current mess in Afghanistan.

Against this backdrop when the Foreign Office spokesperson was asked whether Pakistan could downgrade diplomatic ties with Kabul, the response from him was in a categorical no.

“Pakistan believes in maintaining close, cooperative and brotherly relations with Afghanistan. There is no plan to downgrade our diplomatic relations with the neighbouring country,” the spokesperson said.

“Negative statements by some elements, who are not representative of the people of Afghanistan, cannot be allowed to adversely impact this important relationship particularly at this critical juncture of the ongoing Afghan peace process,” he added.

Regarding the reported abduction of Afghan ambassador’s daughter, he said a thorough investigation was launched immediately after the incident was reported. Over 700 hours of video footage was examined from over 300 CCTV cameras. More than 200 witnesses were interviewed by the security personnel.

“While a significant progress has been made in this case, we believe that the cooperation of Afghan ambassador and his daughter is critical in concluding the investigation,” he said.

The investigations into the alleged abduction of Afghan envoy’s daughter concluded that no evidence was found to support her claim.

To another question, the spokesperson said Pakistan was not in a position to host more Afghan refugees.

“As for our position on the Afghan refugees, we have repeatedly underscored the need for a time bound, dignified and well-resourced plan for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said.

“We hope the current security situation in Afghanistan doesn’t worsen, as it will also have serious consequences for Pakistan, including the possibility of further influx of Afghan refugees,” he added.

“As we have clearly stated, Pakistan is not in a position to host any more refugees.”

He emphasised that the need for utilising bilateral mechanisms to discuss the issue of Afghan refugees including through the Refugee Working Group under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), which must be optimally utilised to deepen engagement, communication and understanding for early return and resettlement of Afghan refugees in their homeland.

The spokesperson rejected the criticism of India regarding the role of China in the Afghan endgame.
China hosted the Afghan Taliban delegation headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar at a time when US Secretary of State Antony Blinkin was in New Delhi discussing the Afghan situation with the Indian leadership.

“We believe that China being a neighbouring country to Afghanistan does have an important role to play in the Afghan peace process,” the spokesperson said.

“Pakistan is a close and brotherly neighbour of Afghanistan, and the only country that has consistently emphasised that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict.”

He said Pakistan had been supporting and facilitating peace process for achieving an inclusive intra-Afghan political settlement.

All neighbours of Afghanistan including China have been supporting political resolution of the Afghan conflict. Pakistan and China are committed to facilitate and support “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process.

“Unfortunately, India is among the spoilers of the peace process and this Indian thinking is also reflected by its continued opposition to the Afghan peace process and the efforts being made by the international community in this regard,” he regretted.