Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry says Pakistan-US stand to lose if ties worsen
WASHINGTON: Pakistan has cautioned against the tendency to externalise problems in Afghanistan, with Islamabad’s ambassador to the United States declaring that his country bears no blame for a spate of recent attacks in Kabul.
“We condemn those attacks, the innocent lives [that] have been lost. Our foreign minister was in the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, and we commiserate with the people and government of Afghanistan,” Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry told National Public Radio (NPR) in an interview.
His comments came after Afghanistan once again pointed the finger at Pakistan in the wake of deadly bombings that have killed more than one hundred persons in Kabul and raised new concerns about the security of the Afghan capital.
But Chaudhry reaffirmed Pakistan’s desire for stability in Afghanistan, saying that Islamabad is disappointed that Afghanistan always blames Pakistan for its problems.
“We would also like to express our disappointment that anything that happens in Afghanistan, no matter what, the only reaction that we hear from Kabul is to blame Pakistan. I think externalising your own problems will not help that government deal with the issue at hand,” he said, according to the radio station.
“We are the only country that will benefit the most — apart from the people of Afghanistan — if peace returns to Afghanistan,” the ambassador explained.
When questioned whether Pakistan bears some blame for the attacks, the diplomat responded: “Absolutely not! Pakistan does not want any violence or terrorism in Afghanistan. In fact, we have suffered from the instability in Afghanistan. Why would we support any element that would destabilise Afghanistan, and in turn bring that instability to Pakistan?”
During the interview with NPR, which has a large nationwide following, Ambassador Chaudhry noted that the Afghan conflict could best be resolved politically.
He, however, said that the Afghan Taliban are leaving Pakistan and the country has much less influence on them than it had for a few years when Pakistan brought them to the negotiating table to persuade them to renounce violence.
“I think the solution is to have a comprehensive political approach and engage in a genuine political dialogue between all Afghan factions. We don’t want to be party to it. We think that it should be between the Afghan government and all Afghan factions, and the Taliban must be made part of that process,” he opined.
“We tried it twice. We did it once in 2015, the second time, the four nations — Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China — came together, and we set out to meet all the Taliban to persuade them that they must give up violence,” Chaudhry said.
He added, “The Taliban leader was killed in a drone strike. So I think they [Taliban] are not ready to listen to Pakistan. Our influence on them has eroded because we brought them twice, with whatever influence we had, and now they are leaving our country and we have much less influence on them.”
Regarding the state of Pakistan–US relationship that strained following President Donald Trump’s accusations via a Twitter message, Ambassador Chaudhry said that the two countries stand to lose if the ties worsen.
“We would like to have good relations with the United States; there is no doubt about it. The two countries have worked together for seven decades, and we think it would be a mistake to squander that relationship. Both countries have benefited from the relationship and if it goes down, I think both countries are going to lose,” the Pakistan ambassador said.
He went on to say the US president’s tweet was received with great disappointment because Pakistan and the United States have worked together for a long time, and to mire it only in terms of dollars and cents was an unfair treatment. He added that it was a surprise because Pakistan was already having conversations with the US as Defence Secretary James Mattis visited Pakistan and so did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“We were having those conversations. The idea was to use the words of Secretary Mattis, find that common ground where two countries have to work. I think the direction should be to find common grounds, and not engage in a coercive or a disrespectful relationship. Pakistan believes in a relationship which would be based on mutual respect and mutual trust and I think that’s where the future should lie,” he said, according to NPR.