FO says PM Imran’s ‘interim Afghan govt’ comment ‘misinterpreted’


–Spokesman says Pakistan has ‘no wish to interfere’ in internal affairs, statement reported out of context


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan does not wish to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments should not be misinterpreted, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Wednesday.

“The Afghan government was a hurdle in (the) peace process that was insisting that Taliban should talk to it,” the prime minister was quoted as telling senior journalists earlier this week.

Khan told journalists on Monday that forming an interim Afghan government would smooth peace talks between US and Taliban officials since the militant group refuses to speak to the current government.

According to a statement, the premier’s comments on Afghanistan have been “reported out of context” in the media, leading to an “unwarranted reaction from various quarters”.

FO said that the PM had referred to Pakistan’s model where elections are held under an interim government. The comments should not be misinterpreted to imply interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, it added.

Pakistan has no other interest in Afghanistan but to promote peace through an ‘Afghan-owned’ and ‘Afghan-led’ political process, the statement added.

It said that “PM Imran takes a personal interest in facilitating the ongoing political reconciliation process and the same must not be misconstrued to undermine the sincere efforts of Pakistan or to create misunderstandings at this crucial stage of the process”.

It concluded that the premier “understands the plight of brave people of Afghanistan, who have a right to live in peace after four decades of violence and war”.

The comments made by the prime minister during a sitting with journalists on Monday were also criticised by the Afghan government and US Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

In a tweet, Khalilzad also appeared to criticise the prime minister’s comments. He said while “Pakistan has made constructive contributions on the Afghan Peace Process, PM Khan’s comments did not. “The future of Afghanistan is for Afghans, and only Afghans, to decide,” he said.

Afghanistan has also recalled its ambassador from Pakistan over reported remarks by the PM that suggested Kabul should set up an interim government, calling the comments “irresponsible”.

The Afghan government deemed Khan’s statements as “an obvious example of Pakistan’s interventional policy and disrespect to the national sovereignty and determination of the people of Afghanistan,” Ahmadi said.

The row marks the third time in just over a month that Kabul has demanded an explanation from Pakistan over comments related to peace talks, illustrating the flaring tensions between the two neighbours at a sensitive time.