By Sanjay Kumar
Afghanistan has expressed outrage over remarks made by Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, calling the landlocked nation a hub of terrorism, with the Taliban regime demanding an apology from its Islamic neighbour.
In his address to the 77th session of the United Nations on September 23, Mr Sharif shared concerns over the threat posed by “the terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan”. Mr Sharif’s statement in the UN this year is a departure from last year when the then Prime Minister Imran Khan exuded optimism about the newly formed Taliban government in Kabul and asked the world body not to isolate the new regime in the Hindukush.
This altered stand of Islamabad has not gone down well with the Taliban leadership. “We reject the statement made by Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif”, a top Taliban source told the Indian media News 18. “His statement is unwarranted and demeaning. Pakistan should issue an unconditional apology”, said the Taliban.
“Our personal friend Shehbaz Sharif told the whole world at the UN that Afghanistan is a safe haven for terrorists, that Afghanistan is a great threat to the world. This is nothing but humiliation,” the Taliban leader added.
Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan, also reacted strongly and called Sharif’s statement “unfortunate and untrue”. The statement at the #UNGA of Hon. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif of #Pakistan regarding the presence of terrorist groups in #Afghanistan is unfortunate and untrue”, Karzai tweeted.
He said that “facts are in opposite direction: Pakistan government has been for decades nurturing and using terrorism against the culture and heritage of Afghanistan. Continuing to use propaganda and extremism to undermine the wellbeing of the people of Afghanistan is not in the interest of Pakistan conducting a civilized relationship is”.
In the UN, the Pakistani prime minister said that Pakistan shared the key concern of the international community regarding “the threat posed by the major terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan, especially ISIL-K and TTP as well as Al-Qaida, ETIM and IMU”.
“They all need to be dealt with comprehensively, with the support and cooperation of the Interim Afghan authorities,” he said. At the same time he urged the international community to address the “dire humanitarian needs” of Afghanistan. Mr Sharif said that Pakistan has been “the principal victim of terrorism”.
“Over the last two decades we have suffered more than 80,000 casualties and over $150 billion in economic losses due to terrorist attacks, Sharif said.
Pakistan has long been known as the patron and key host of the Taliban militants since 2001. Islamabad’s altered stand on its eastern neighbour came days after it reportedly launched a search operation in Swat against the Pakistani Taliban militants.
Arab News has reported that “army and police have launched a joint search operation in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat District against Pakistani Taliban militants amid widespread reports the group is attempting to regain a foothold in the mountainous area they once ruled with an iron fist”. Political observers say that Islamabad wants to alter its international image of the patron of terrorism in South Asia. It wants to win back the trust of the western world which blame Pakistan for its nefarious interference in Afghanistan for the existing chaos in the Hindukush region.
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