Internal affairs says don’t interfere in it; Afganistan snubed by Imran Khan

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Islamabad: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers policy statement on Pulwama attack, in Islamabad, Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019. (PID/PTI Photo) (PTI2_19_2019_000174B)

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s suggestion that an interim administration in Afghanistan could help end an impasse in talks with the Taliban prompted angry reactions on Tuesday from Afghan politicians, who accused him of interfering in their country’s internal affairs.

Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs summoned the deputy ambassador of Pakistan late on Tuesday over Khan’s remarks. “Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its grave objection on Pakistani PM’s recent reckless statements about the peace process and establishment of an interim government, deemed such statements an obvious example of Pakistan’s interventional policy and disrespect to the national sovereignty and determination of the people of Afghanistan,” it said, also recalling Afghanistan’s ambassador from Islamabad for further discussions on the matter.

Khan made the remarks during an interaction with the Pakistani media in Islamabad on Monday, when he blamed the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani for the stalemate in talks with the Taliban.

“The Afghan government was a hurdle in the peace process (as it is) insisting that Taliban should talk to it,” Khan was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

The Afghan peace process can succeed only if there is a neutral interim government that can hold free and transparent elections participated in by all stakeholders, he added. Khan also said he had to cancel a scheduled meeting with the Taliban leadership because of objections from the Afghan government.

Amrullah Saleh, a former head of Afghanistan’s spy agency who is Ghani’s vice-presidential candidate in the presidential election scheduled for September, tweeted that Khan had asked for the abrogation of the Afghan “constitution & 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,” Saleh added, referring to Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence.

Former Afghan National Security Adviser Haneef Atmar, a presidential candidate, said Khan’s comments amounted to a “wilful interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs”. The Afghan people, “not the leader of a neighbouring country, can decide the future of govt & politics in our country”, he tweeted.

Though Atmar has himself called for an interim set-up, he condemned the “inappropriate statement” by Khan and called on Pakistan to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

The formation of a caretaker government after the Ghani administration’s term ends on May 22 is “strictly a domestic matter”, he added.

People familiar with developments in New Delhi said Pakistan appeared intent on pushing for the creation of an interim government in Afghanistan that would include Taliban elements.

India is keen to ensure that the basic structure of Afghanistan’s constitution isn’t affected by the ongoing negotiations, the people said.

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