Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his country is pushing for a political settlement in Afghanistan before foreign troops leave later this year, to reduce the risk of civil war in its western neighbour.
Foreign troops are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.
“There is a lot of fear right now in Pakistan and I assure you that we are trying our level best that there is some sort of political settlement before the Americans leave,” Khan said in an interview with Reuters on Friday.
Violence in Afghanistan has increased significantly since the troop withdrawal announcement by US in April. Intra-Afghan peace talks remain deadlocked.
“Since the moment the Americans gave a date, of when they were going to leave Afghanistan … the Taliban feel they have won the war,” Khan said, adding it was not going to be easy to get concessions from the Taliban after the US decision.
He said Pakistan would suffer the most, after Afghanistan itself, if there was civil war and a refugee crisis.
“And then there would be pressure on us to jump in and become a part of it,” Khan said.
He said his government had changed Pakistan’s decades-long policy of pushing for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan to ensure that there was a friendly government there.
“Any Afghan government chosen by the people is who Pakistan should deal with,” Khan said, adding that Pakistan “should not try to do any manipulation in Afghanistan”.
Pakistan has long been accused of harbouring Taliban leaders and fighters.
Khan said a lot depended on US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, with Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s help, to carve out a settlement to avoid more bloodshed.