Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj General Babar Iftikhar has said that Pakistan is a facilitator of the Afghan peace process and not a guarantor.
He was talking to a private news TV channel on Saturday night on the regional and Afghan situation.
Replying to a question General Babar said that the peace process is at a critical stage. Pakistan has tried to move the process forward with “sincerity”, he added.
He asserted that Pakistan has played a key role although other stakeholders have been a part of Afghan peace process.
The DG ISPR stated that Pakistan has played the part of a facilitator in the Afghan peace process. “It is still a facilitator of this peace process, we are not guarantors.”
He said Afghan stakeholders have to decide how to take the country forward. “We have always maintained that it should be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and that is what we have continued to strive for.”
General Babar said that India’s investments in Afghanistan seemed to be “sinking”, adding that Indian propaganda against Pakistan and its role in the peace process was “not gaining traction”.
He said that India’s frustration with its investment in Afghanistan was evident. “If they had made these investments with sincerity, they should not be frustrated. But because they were concentrating on using Afghanistan to harm Pakistan, they can see their entire investment sinking.”
He said “spoilers” were trying to hold Pakistan responsible for the situation deteriorating in Afghanistan.
“But there is no truth is these allegations. The world is aware of efforts of Pakistan to resolve the Afghan issue, without violence and according to the wishes of the Afghan people.”
He said India was not gaining any traction on the propaganda it was trying to perpetuate in this regard.
US BASES: Asked about whether the United States should remove itself completely from the region, General Babar said that there was only one requirement from the US which was a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Elaborating his assertion, he said that their exit would have happened after a transition, but it happened a little quickly.
“I think that it has been said with a lot of clarity that there is no question nor requirement of bases for the US,” he added.
He said that the regional powers were capable of resolving the issue.
TALIBAN CLAIM: Commenting on the Taliban claim that the group had taken control of 85 percent of territory in Afghanistan, General Babar said that a lot of hard work and money had been putting into training the Afghan National Army (ANA).
“The ANA is of course present on ground […] but their strategy seems to show that they are probably more concerned about the main cities.”
He said that the Taliban’s claims were an “exaggeration” and the number was likely closer to 45-50 percent.
He reiterated that there was a force on ground in Afghanistan. “But the reports that are being received right now show an increase in the speed of the Taliban.”
He said that the US was in the process of withdrawing troops which would be completed by August 31. “At the end of the day, regional stakeholders will have to sit down with the Afghans to find a solution.”
He said often Pakistan is blamed for the problems being faced in Afghanistan.
“The ANA has been equipped and has been trained […] they have an air force and special forces. As a professional soldier I would like to say that they should have the capacity to withstand this onslaught and should be able to fight.”
General Babar said the whole world was a witness to the sincerity with which Pakistan had pursued the Afghan peace process. “We have always said that we have no favourites in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have to decide which government they want and how to take the country forward.”
The DG ISPR said guns cannot decided the future of Afghanistan. “Guns could not decide in the past 20 years, so how could they decide now?”
PAK-AFGHAN BORDER: General Babar said the security and management of the Pak-Afghan border was beefed up some time back. “Right now, 90 per cent of the Pak-Afghan border has been fenced.”
He said Pakistan was well aware of the spillover in case of a civil war in Afghanistan and measures had been taken.
“As far as Daesh and TTP presence is concerned, everyone knows they are in Afghanistan and they try to hurt Pakistan’s interest. We have had casualties during fencing and we have raised this issue with the Afghan government several times.”
However, he said, Pakistan was “very well prepared” and the current border security mechanism was “much better”.
He said if there was an increase in violence, there would be a possible influx of refugees, adding that the interior ministry would have planned to tackle it.
He categorically said Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against anyone nor would allow “unwanted” people to enter the country.
“But border security is two-way traffic. The other side should have made arrangements like the ones we have made, which unfortunately they did not.”
He refrained from commenting on the reasons for this but said that the Afghan side had not been kept “air tight”.