Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that a "new reality" has been established in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in Kabul and it is now in the international community’s "collective interest" to ensure that there is no renewed conflict in the war-torn country and it will never again become a safe haven for terrorists.
Addressing the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) Summit in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, Khan said it should be a matter of relief for the world that the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and the full withdrawal of foreign forces from the country happened "without bloodshed, without civil war, and without mass exodus of refugees".
Pakistan, which had suffered due to the spillover of conflict and instability in Afghanistan, had an interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, he said.
“The sudden change of the previous government which surprised everyone, the takeover by the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of foreign forces, has established a new reality in Afghanistan.
“That all this happened without bloodshed, without civil war, and without mass exodus of refugees, should be a matter of relief,” Khan said, adding that it is now in the international community’s collective interest to ensure that there is no renewed conflict in Afghanistan and the security situation is stabilised.
Equally urgent priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown, he said. “We must remember that the previous government depended heavily on foreign aid and its removal could lead to economic collapse. This is a moment to stand by the Afghan people, firmly and unequivocally,” he said. He said that the Taliban rulers should make good on their commitments.
"The Taliban must fulfil the pledges made above all for inclusive political structure where all ethnic groups are represented. This is vital for Afghanistan’s stability," he said.
The history of Afghanistan bears witness to the fact that the country values its sovereignty and cannot be controlled from outside, he said, adding that he believes that a positive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is extremely important.
“There is a rare opportunity to finally end the 40 years of war in Afghanistan; this moment should not be squandered,” he said. It would be unwise at this critical juncture to spread negativity, or indulge in mischievous propaganda, as some spoilers have sought to do, he said, adding that this will only serve to undermine the prospects for peace, to the detriment of Afghan people.
He said that guided by the “Shanghai Spirit”, the SCO has steadily grown in size and stature. “Today, SCO cumulatively represents 44 per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of global landmass and 20 per cent of the global GDP.
“For our part, we must resist any drift towards bloc politics and stress that peaceful coexistence and cooperation – not confrontation –should be the main drivers of global politics,” Khan said.
On the question of COVID-19’s origin, Khan backed Pakistan’s “all-weather ally” China. “We believe science should continue to guide the world’s efforts as it combats the pandemic. Attempts to politicize the question of virus origin should be avoided as it is divisive at a time when the world needs to unite,” he said.
The vaccine should also be available to everyone on an equitable basis, and as a global public good, Khan said. On the issue of terrorism, he said: “As the world marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we were all reminded that despite international community’s earnest efforts, the threats posed by terrorism still persist.
“Associating one religion with terrorism has enabled far-right, populist and supremacist groups around the world to propagate, multiply and accumulate influence”.
"In some cases, such extremist and bigoted ideologies have ascended to capture the state power in so-called democracies," Khan said without naming any country.
“The fight against terror would not be won if we ignore these threats and challenges – the biggest of which is state terrorism, perpetrated against people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories," he said.
Khan said that Pakistan has suffered over 80,000 casualties and economic losses in excess of USD 150 billion, apart for millions with internal displacement.
Addressing threats to international and regional peace and security is a vital interest for the SCO.
“We believe faithfully implementing UN Security Council resolutions for peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes is a necessary condition for peace, and indispensable for creating an environment of cooperation.
“Unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories in violation of Security Council resolutions run counter to this objective. Such measures must be condemned and opposed firmly for being in violation of the SCO Charter and its well-established principles of inter-state relations,” Khan said.
On connectivity, Prime Minister Khan said the web of rail, road, sea and air links across the SCO region will usher in a new era of enhanced trade, energy flows, and people-to-people exchanges.
These trans-regional linkages will be reinforced by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is making steady progress, he said.
He also commended the SCO for completing 20 years and said Pakistan would continue to play its role as a member of the group.
The eight-member SCO grouping of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan is holding its 21st summit at Dushanbe.
Afghanistan is an observer in the SCO. The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on August 15, two weeks before the US' complete troop withdrawal on August 31 after a costly two-decade war. This forced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country to the UAE.
The Taliban insurgents stormed across Afghanistan and captured all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the US and its allies melted away.
Thousands of Afghan nationals and foreigners have fled the country to escape the new Taliban regime and to seek asylum in different nations, including the US and many European nations, resulting in total chaos and deaths.