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Our country never supported Taliban takeover of Kabul by force: FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said that the only way forward toward peace in Afghanistan is through reconciliation, coexistence and talks among Afghans, and reiterated that Islamabad’s approach toward its neighbor has changed and it will favor a future arrangement that is acceptable for all Afghans.

In an interview with Afghan news agency Tolo News, he rejected Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and said most of their leaders “are in Afghanistan”. He also denied the existence of Quetta and Peshawar Shuras, or councils in Pakistan and said he “has been hearing of these terms for now decades.”

Regarding whether Taliban are “funded in Pakistan,” Qureshi said: “These are very-those many things that have been going on for years. You’re stuck in the old groove. Get of out that groove, please. Get out of that groove. If you remain stuck in this, believe me you will not be able to travel far. And we want you to travel far. We want reconciliation and peace.”

Regarding progress in Afghan peace process, the foreign minister said President Ghani has “a very important responsibility on his shoulders” and he must “show the leadership and the flexibility” necessary to achieve progress in the peace process.

To a question about Afghanistan policy, he said, “We want to see peace and stability in our neighboring country because we believe a stable Afghanistan provides us with the regional connectivity we need.” For the past few years, Pakistan has been saying that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem. Decisions about Afghanistan are to be made by Afghans, we can only play the role of mediator. We are Afghanistan s partner for peace.

When asked about the status of the Afghan peace process and the progress made in this regard, the foreign minister said that you can ask the Afghan leadership about it. Pakistan will not sit at the table in the intra-Afghan talks. We will act as mediators when needed.

To another question on what type of a government Pakistan would favor as an outcome of the peace process, he said it is a decision to be made by Afghans. “That’s for the people of Afghanistan to decide–who governs them and what kind of a political dispensation Afghanistan wants,” he said. “What we’re saying is you are all Afghans. Peace can only come to Afghanistan if you sit and reconcile. When you sit and reconcile, when you sit and talk, you will determine what kind of constitution we want, what kind of, you know, system should be in place.”

FM Qureshi said that Taliban leaders and those who have attended the Doha negotiations, including Mullah Baradar, have been visiting talks “for facilitating the peace process,” and he reiterated that most Taliban leaders “are in Afghanistan.” “They (Taliban leaders) go to Doha. They have been traveling to other places, they went to Moscow, they went to other places,” Qureshi said.

Referring to Taliban leaders, he said, they’re in Afghanistan and the Afghans “need to engage with them.” “We’re only engaging with them to facilitate the peace process,” he said. “We’re trying to be helpful. We’re trying to be constructive.”

The foreign minister said that Pakistan has “always advocated reduction in violence leading to ceasefire because we genuinely believe that you cannot have negotiations and violence go hand in hand.”

To a question regarding Taliban military takeover, Qureshi said, “We have never said, we have never supported or advocated a takeover of Kabul by force.”

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