Photo credit: Dawn
Well done, Nawaz Sharif for speaking out in favour of a neutral Afghan policy which respects the wishes of the Afghan people and their elected leaders. We will always remember your brave attempt at peace with India in your second term which was derailed by Musharraf’s misadventure in Kargil and by the demagogues of Jamaat-e-Islami.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan should stop trying to influence affairs in Afghanistan, the opposition leader said Tuesday, while admitting that the pro-Afghan Taliban policy he pursued when he was prime minister in the 1990s was a failure.
Nawaz Sharif’s comments come as he tries to gain political traction and deflect criticism that his party is beholden to extremist elements. Just last week, he pushed the government to open talks with elements of the Pakistani Taliban, and the ruling party agreed to his proposal to hold a national conference on stopping terrorism.
The remarks also come as Pakistan tries to weigh in on reconciliation efforts between Afghanistan’s government, the US and the Afghan Taliban.
In an interview with Pakistan’s Dunya TV that aired Monday and Tuesday, Sharif appeared to renounce a policy he pursued with vigor while twice prime minister in the 1990s.
”Pakistan should abandon this thinking that Pakistan has to keep influence in Afghanistan,” said Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League-N party. ”Neither will they accept influence, nor should the pro-influence-minded people here insist on it.”
”Our policy in the past has failed. Neither will such a policy work in future. We have a centuries-old relationship, and we can maintain this relationship only when we remain neutral and support the government elected there with the desire of the Afghan people.”
It was unclear where Sharif would stand on the reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.
The PML-N has been criticized in recent months for not going after militant outfits in Punjab, a stance analysts say is driven by its reliance on banned militant groups to deliver key votes during elections.
While proposing Saturday for peace talks with militants in Pakistan, Sharif said Islamabad should take the initiative instead of waiting for directives from Washington. But he also said the negotiations should be with militants ”who are ready to talk and ready to listen.”
The government has brokered peace deals with Taliban fighters along the Afghan border in the past, but they have usually collapsed and have often given the militants time to regroup and consolidate their control.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced later Saturday that he’d agreed to Sharif’s proposal that an all-parties conference be held on ways to defeat militancy. No date has been announced, and the potential impact is unclear. At least one past such gathering has already been held. – AP