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FM Qureshi says Pakistan can’t afford anymore Afghan refugees

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi recently stated that Pakistan cannot host further refugees from Afghanistan due to limited resources. Currently, Pakistan is the only country hosting 3 million Afghan refugees.

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov on Tuesday discussed the regional security including Afghanistan and human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

During a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi briefed his counterpart of the rapidly transforming situation in Afghanistan and highlighted the importance of consistent support to the Afghan peace process as a shared responsibility.

The foreign minister made Kamilov aware of his apprehensions about Pakistan being unable to afford another influx of refugees from Afghanistan in case of deterioration of the situation within the borders of Pakistan’s Western neighbor.

Read more: Pakistan to see fourth wave of Afghan refugees

The foreign minister expressed hope that Afghan leaders, recognizing the importance of international support for the Afghan peace process, will achieve a negotiated political settlement, rather than dragging the country into a bloody civil war.

 

Furthermore, in a statement from Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, Qureshi stated how India was playing the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan, while disturbing regional peace, and urged the international community to stop New Delhi from the negative attitude.

“Pakistan is the only country, which, despite its limited resources, is hosting 3 million Afghan refugees for decades, however, it cannot afford to welcome more refugees if the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates again,” he said in the statement.

“Since under the guise of Afghan refugees, some anti-Pakistan elements could enter the country,” Qureshi said, adding that it was an obligation to remain cautious. “Pakistan by sacrificing 70,000 lives and suffering huge economic losses has paid a heavy price in the war against terrorism.

Read more: Opinion: Forty years of Afghan Refugees: Effects on Pakistan & their repatriation

He considered most of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan as innocent and expressed his desire that they return to their country. “Pakistan wanted to help the Afghan people on humanitarian grounds, but also wanted to ensure the safety and security of its own people,” he added.

Pakistan wants a joint strategy on Afghanistan

The foreign minister further mentioned that Pakistan wanted to adopt a joint strategy on Afghanistan after consulting the important countries of the region.

“As Pakistan is fulfilling its responsibilities, the improved situation in Afghanistan will benefit all. If God forbid, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, all will be affected,” Qureshi said.

“Pakistan also desires sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said after a detailed discussion already held with his Tajik counterpart on the situation in Afghanistan. He was also expected to meet the foreign ministers of China and Russia, he added.

Asking “how long fingers will be pointed towards Pakistan?” Qureshi urged the Afghan people not to repeat the history of violence and carve a way together towards peace. “We invite the important Afghan personalities for dialogue. Afghan leaders should sit and tell how we can help them.”

Read more: What’s next for Afghanistan after US exit?

Highlighting that negative statements could not cloud Pakistan’s positive contribution to the Afghan peace process and that the blame game would not serve the region positively, Qureshi urged his Afghan counterpart to address all concerns through established institutional mechanisms.

He told the Afghan foreign minister that Pakistan looked forward to hosting a review meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) in Islamabad at the earliest. “Pakistan supports a peaceful and stable Afghanistan” He concluded.

Pakistan’s policy appreciated by Uzbekistan

Foreign minister Qureshi is in Dushanbe, at the invitation of the Tajikistan administration to lead the Pakistan delegation at the event.

Foreign ministers of both nations also exchanged views on ways and means to enhance bilateral ties as well as discussed the regional situation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to Tashkent to enhance bilateral cooperation and for participation in the international conference on connectivity was also brought under discussion. It was agreed that close consultations were necessary for a successful visit.

Read more: Pakistan, Uzbekistan do trial runs of trade via war-torn Afghanistan

Recalling the Uzbek foreign minister’s visit to Pakistan and the virtual summit at the leadership level, foreign minister Qureshi remarked that the continued interaction has injected new dynamism into the bilateral relations.

The Uzbek foreign minister appreciated Pakistan’s policy to pursue geoeconomic goals which were aligned with Uzbekistan’s foreign policy goals.

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