The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday summoned the Deputy Ambassador of Pakistan to Kabul, Shahbaz Hussain, over the recent “irresponsible” remarks by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on an interim setup in Afghanistan to break the deadlock of peace in the country.
“Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its grave objection on Pakistani Prime Minister’s recent ‘reckless’ statements about the peace process and establishment of an interim government and deemed such statements an obvious example of Pakistan’s interventional policy and disrespect to the national sovereignty and determination of the people of Afghanistan,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also recalled Atif Mashal, Afghanistan’s Ambassador, from Islamabad for further discussions on the matter, the statement said.
Afghan Politicians’ Reaction
Heads of mainstream political parties in Afghanistan and some high-ranking government officials took to social media on Tuesday to dismiss the controversial remarks by Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
Khan said the Afghan government creates an obstruction on the way of peace talks with the Taliban.
The Afghan government has been blaming Pakistan for harboring key Taliban leaders on its soil and providing them with sanctuaries to stage war against Afghan forces and their foreign counterparts. However, Pakistan has often rejected the allegations and has claimed that it is extending support to the Afghan peace process.
Former President Hamid Karzai rejected Khan’s idea of an interim government in the country as a clear interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
“We strongly support friendly relations with the neighboring and regional countries based on mutual respect,” Karzai said in a statement. “Therefore, we call on the Pakistani government and all other countries to avoid making such statements and interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan under any means including the idea for the establishment of an interim administration.”
During his 13 years in office as president, Karzai traveled over 20 times to Pakistan in an attempt to pursue the neighboring country to bring the Taliban to negotiating table. However, Karzai’s policy towards Pakistan could not move the peace process forward.
Joining Karzai, meanwhile, Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and a staunch anti-Pakistan veteran, who has joined President Ghani’s election ticket, said that Pakistani leader’s demand for the abrogation of Afghanistan’s Constitution and the demolition of the democratic system is something which has been fabricated by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“The PM of Pak asks for abrogation of Afghanistan constitution and demolition of democratic system as a way to break the so-called deadlock in peace efforts. That is the price ISI wants us to pay to appease terrorism. Wonder why Mohammad Haneef Atmar team echoes Pakistan's demand in a veiled way,” Saleh tweeted.
Saleh lashed out at Ghani’s rival and former national security advisor Mohammad Haneef Atmar whose statement’s on an interim setup in Afghanistan coincided with Khan’s proposal.
“In the meantime, Mohammad Haneef Atmar campaign in a rally in Mazar also demanded an interim set up which won’t come without abrogation of the constitution and destructive re-set of everything from Zero. Only fools believe in coincidence. We await to know the roots of this collusion,” Saleh said in another tweet.
Atmar on Monday said the term of the National Unity Government, led by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, will not have legitimacy after May 22 and that Afghans are reaching to a consensus about this.
The National Unity Government’s (NUG) was established based on an agreement between Ghani and Abdullah in September 2014 after controversial elections. The agreement on the NUG was brokered by former US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Our nation is gradually coming to a consensus that the continuation of the incumbent government has no legitimacy after May 22. We do not want any beyond the Constitution,” Atmar reiterated. “We are not seeking to create a power vacuum but for sure we want sincere efforts for peace and elections, not a hindrance to the processes. Therefore, establishing an interim government based on the Constitution will be our top priority so that we assure our nation that peace and elections are coming,” Atmar added.
However, Atmar said in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon that he sees Imran Khan’s remarks as interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
“Recent statement by Pakistani prime minister is an interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. The Afghan government derives its legitimacy from the Afghan people, but not from the leaders of regional countries who strive to meddle in our internal affairs and decide on the future of our government and our politics,” Atmar said.
Nazifullah Salarzai, Deputy Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, said in a tweet that “to Imran Khan in cricket language: Mr Khan, stop “Ball tampering” and “Match Fixing” in the Afghan peace process, we know who Taliban flirt with, have an affair and sleep with.”
Meanwhile, John R. Bass, US Ambassador to Afghanistan, in interaction with Kabul-based journalists on Tuesday said interim government was not a topic of discussion between US and Taliban negotiators in Doha. The last round of the US-Taliban talks in Doha continued for 16 days in which the two sides agreed in draft on foreign forces withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances.
“We are only talking to Taliban about two inter-connected issues that directly affect US forces and US policy concerns about the prospect of Afghanistan continuing to be a safe haven for international terrorist organizations,” he said. “That is all we are talking to the Taliban about. We are not talking to the Taliban about interim governments, we are not talking to the Taliban about issues related to the current Afghan Constitution and the current structure of government. We are not talking to them about these issues because it is for Afghans, representatives of this society, representatives of the government of wider society, to talk to the Taliban about those issues.”
Bass said that they have views on those issues and the US’s goal is to help produce a settlement that preserves the gains of the last seventeen years.
Former NDS chief and a presidential candidate Rahmatullah Nabil said the Pakistani Prime Minister made the comments on the order of the intelligence agency of Pakistan.
“Based on the instruction of ISI, the Pakistani Prime Minister once again suggested the establishment of an interim govt in Afghanistan while the same demand was expressed in Balkh yesterday. It is very likely that the handlers R the same for both, or they think the same for Afghanistan. For sure it isn’t a coincidence,” Nabil tweeted.
The Afghan government has not commented on the remarks so far.
In the past Afghan government leaders have persistently said that the idea for the creation of an interim government in the country was not in the interest of the Afghan people and the country as a whole.
In January, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah rejected the prospects for the creation of an interim government in Afghanistan, saying there is no possibility for the creation of an interim administration, as it does not support the interests of the country.
Ghani last month reacted to reports on a plan to establish an interim government in the country as part of a peace plan and said the plan has been outlined outside the country and that it is not applicable in Afghanistan.
“Those who are afraid of the people are talking about an interim government. This is a foreign scheme and has been outlined outside the country and it is failed in this homeland,” he added. “Afghans are selecting the president of Afghanistan,” and that “Islamabad, Tehran and Moscow do not hold the right to elect [Afghanistan’s president]”.