Moeed Yusuf, the National Security Adviser for Pakistan, on his return from a 10-day visit to the US, commented that Pakistan cannot further host Afghan refugees if they are internally replaced due to a turbulent situation erupting in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal. When asked about the “Iranian Model” of hosting refugees, he answered that it is not the answer to the problem.
Even if Pakistan wants to offer space to these refugees, it cannot do so because of its limitations. He says that the economy had suffered drastically over the last 40 years due to Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war. The local population is not ready to host further refugees and the rising resentment and civil strife down of order further make it almost impossible to think about Afghan refugees. He added, “Pakistan mazeed Afghan mahajireen ka bojh bardasht nahi karsakta” as already 3 to 4 million refugees are in Pakistan.
Refugee crisis and militancy nexus
Also, if Pakistan decides to host the refugees, Dr. Moeed Yusuf highlights that it will provide the international community an excuse to blame Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorist outfits and its soil to foster militancy in Afghanistan and the region. He comments that in the past Pakistan’s international credibility and the writ were marred due to rising militancy and terrorism.
And to remove such blame and menace of terrorism from its soil, Pakistan had worked untiringly through military operations. So, the influx of refugees in Pakistan will be problematic as the international community will allege the country for being unsafe. He refers to the emerging hashtags and tweets on “Sanction Pakistan” as already operational propaganda to demean the state’s writ on social media.
Talks with the US governments were “Substantive”
Dr. Moeed Yusuf evaluates his trip to the US as being “substantive”, where there was considerable progress on “substance and later on optics”. He highlighted that Pakistan desires legitimate political settlement in Afghanistan where the interests of all parties and stakeholders remain intact. Thus the US interests are also grounded on the fact that their 20 years of engagement in Afghanistan do not go wasted as they wanted the democratic government and the prevalence of human rights in the country.
However, Dr. Moeed also highlights that in the US, people are questioning the government about where their $1.2 trillion went in the Afghan War if there isn’t a political settlement as yet. He pointed out that America still needs our assistance concerning its withdrawal from Afghanistan. In this respect, Pakistan is ensuring that its national interests remain prime while entering into any talks and deliberations with the US government.
Yesterday I was pleased to meet with Pakistani National Security Adviser Dr. Moeed Yusuf @YusufMoeed. We discussed Afghanistan and the economic relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Thank you to @AsifMahmood90 for organizing this lunch. pic.twitter.com/U3WyP8sJzQ
— Congressman Brad Sherman (@BradSherman) August 5, 2021
Pakistan advocates an “all-inclusive political settlement”
The NSA also claimed that Pakistan’s narrative on Afghanistan rests on “inclusive political settlement” and we do not advocate or foster a forceful take over in the country. He comments on the unpredictability in Afghanistan referring to the large swaths the Taliban are making particularly in the north and the west. Nothing this offensive, Dr. Moeed claims that the inefficacy of the US engagement in Afghanistan becomes clear as they were unable to deter the Taliban’s aggression.
The solution to ending the refugee crisis
Thus, Dr. Yusuf asserted that the best solution to ending the refugee crisis is to ensure that they are not internally displaced. The United Nations Human Rights Council should work to create safe zones in Afghanistan. He claimed that the fencing on the Afghan-Pakistan border is not the answer to the refugee crisis because “if the refugees stand on the border, would Pakistan have any choice”. He commented that “many European countries are sending refugees that deem as Afghans back”.
So, the way forward is that the international community, the troika countries, and the regional partner pre-emptively work towards a political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan, he added, does not favor any group or government in Afghanistan. Instead, Pakistan’s national interests lie in advocating a settlement that is all-inclusive and Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led. Also, he said that Pakistan’s foreign policy goals regarding the Afghanistan situation are “Proactive, unapologetic and pragmatic” and Pakistan’s talks with the US in Washington were centered on these dynamics.
Dr. Moeed Yusuf on Afghanistan situation,
"We have made it absolutely clear — we will not accept a forceful takeover." https://t.co/EqLr976EHr
— Aamnah (@AfKhan29) August 5, 2021
We will not repeat the 90s mistake
He commented that in the past Pakistan had made mistakes while communicating its stance and foreign policy narratives regarding Afghanistan and therefore it suffered considerably. “If you know your national interests and communicate directly, the US will like it as their own culture is direct”, commented Dr. Yusuf. Pakistan was unable to adopt such a firm stance and thus its statements were perceived negatively. Also, he added that in the US, the narrative is clear that the mistake of the 1990s would not be repeated where the region was abandoned and the security vacuum was created.
Thus, Pakistan, as noted by Dr. Yusuf stands committed to the peace process in Afghanistan and is ready for every cooperation with the Kabul government. However, the Kabul government’s accusations and lack of cooperation are creating impediments for an all-inclusive political settlement and regional connectivity Pakistan is willing to offer. Dr. Yusuf claims that there is no “economic plan” for Afghanistan and explicates that it desires the US involvement in Afghanistan through economic and humanitarian assistance along with a political solution that is a “win-win” solution for all.
Mr.Moeed Yusuf underlined that Pakistan’s foreign policy and national security interests remain grounded in ensuring balanced and cordial relations with both the US and China. He claimed that even if the ties between China and the US turn sour, the balancing act will be Pakistan’s priority and it will ensure that relations with both states “remain seamless”. He claims that Pakistan is a key state with strategic importance and therefore is fully committed to peace in the region.