The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned recent statements by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, calling them an "irresponsible interference" in Afghanistan’s affairs.
The Afghan ministry did not provide any details about which statements they were referring to; however, on Sunday, Foreign Minister Qureshi, responding to the joint Afghan-US declaration that mentioned a role for the US in working out relations between both Afghanistan and Pakistan, said" any issues Afghanistan has with Islamabad should be resolved bilaterally rather than involving the United States."
The joint declaration Qureshi was referring to was announced on Saturday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a ceremony that coincided with the signing in Doha of an agreement between the Taliban and the United States.
The language in the declaration was as follows:
“The United States commits to facilitate discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan to work out arrangements to ensure neither country’s security is threatened by actions from the territory of the other side,” one of the clauses of the declaration reads.
“They should talk directly to Pakistan. The US is planning to withdraw, and we will always remain neighbors,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Reuters. He continued:
“If I have an issue with Afghanistan, I will not ask Washington to play a role.”
Hamid Tahzeb, the Afghan foreign ministry deputy spokesman, said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Kabul, officially protests to the Pakistan government the recent remarks made by Pakistan’s foreign affairs minister."
In the same interview, Qureshi mentioned a proposal involving a swap of 5,000 Taliban fighters held by the Afghan government in exchange for 1,000 Afghan forces held by the Taliban, which was mentioned in the recent agreements. So far President Ashraf Ghani has not publicly acceded to this exchange, at least not before the intra-Afghan talks. Ghani said the Afghan government has "made no commitment" for such a swap in such a short timeframe, even though the prisoner swap was discussed in both the Afghan-US declaration and the US-Taliban peace deal.
Qureshi said, regarding the prisoner exchange:
"You have to move on, you know, and there’s recognition that there are prisoners on both sides, so I think an exchange, an early exchange of prisoners, would set the ball rolling, will maintain the momentum that was generated yesterday in Doha (the day of signing peace deal between US and Taliban). that will be a useful CBM (confidence-building measure) for both sides--you know--good optics--you know, reassurance to people on both sides that they are not stuck in the past and they are looking at the future and they want to do things to facilitate the peace process. And I think an exchange, an early exchange of prisoners, would facilitate the process,” said Qureshi.
However, a much bolder assertion was heard from Pakistan on Tuesday night, when a retired Pakistani general said on ZemTV.com that Pakistan should effect a "regime change" in Kabul, just as it "did with Najibullah" using its "asset" the Taliban:
“To be very very fair and straight: We need to change the system in Kabul. Using the method we did with Najibullah in the 1980s, we fought with the Kabul government and eventually ousted it and put the Afghan mujahideen in Kabul. This must be done now. The second thing that should be our stated policy is that India will not be accepted in Afghanistan. If Indian forces go to Afghanistan, Pakistan will also enter into Afghanistan and our asset the Taliban will fight the Indian forces and the Kabul regime. Pakistan must declare these two policies--we have to change the regime” said Zaid Hamid, Retired Pakistani general.
TOLOnews spoke with an analyst about these remarks:
“The two main parties have benefited from signing the agreement, Pakistanis and the Taliban, so Pakistan sometimes forgets and talks directly on behalf of the Taliban,” said Mohammad Saleh Registani,a political analyst.
Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan have faced many ups and downs during the National Unity Government (NUG), in 2014.
Now that the US decided to withdraw its troops to Afghanistan, Kabul insists that Pakistani support for the Taliban should be cut, but Islamabad rejects support for the group.
Also on Tuesday, a former Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik, tweeted that it may be time for Ghani "to pack up and go":
“What a reverse change - President DT (Donald Trump) called the most wanted Taliban MullaBrother and discussed peace in Afghanistan. Dr Ghani may have to pack up to go to his next destiny in waiting, as Afghan Taliban are going to strike back to rule with the id. “Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.”
President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi in a tweet on Wednesday responded to Malik:
“Mr. Malik, we totally get your joy over what has happened. You might be very happy that a group (Taliban) you nurtured has been elevated to this level! For once, walk with us on shared values of freedom over tyranny and Islamic radicalism which will put on a fire the whole region,” Sediqqi tweeted.