Addressing a press conference, a day after attending the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between US and Taliban in Doha, Qureshi said that we cannot ignore the role of spoilers. “I spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the signing of the deal and raised four points of concern. One of the concerns was the role of spoilers which have always been present, inside and outside Afghanistan,” he said.
“We have to keep eyes on them,” Qureshi said, adding, that a mechanism must be put in place to identify those playing a negative role.
“The ultimate decision will be in the hands of the Afghanistan government and a foreign actor cannot make that decision for them,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister continued, “Yesterday’s ceremony generated a momentum which needs to be maintained. When people see the progress the momentum will continue.”
Qureshi added that he also suggested to Pompeo that there should not be much delay before the intra-Afghan dialogue takes place so that the momentum continues. “Norway has offered to host intra-Afghan dialogue but we should make sure there isn’t much delay between it. Optics are very important. Yesterday, the optics were beamed everywhere.”
He added that Pakistan’s role was hailed at the ceremony yesterday. “Pakistan played an important role in this,” he said.
“When prisoners are released or troops are withdrawn, the optics were there,” he said. “There were month-long talks behind yesterday’s ceremony.”
On the subject of the release of the prisoners, Qureshi said there needs to be progress on the issue. “Some prisoners are with the Afghan government and some with the Taliban. We are hopeful that President Ashraf Ghani will play his role in keeping the environment healthy and understand the importance of the agreement.”
The foreign minister added the political unrest in the country must also be addressed. “We do not want to get involved in the internal politics of the country or create any hurdles. The United States can have a very important role in this.”
Qureshi added the fourth point he put forward was to mobilise international support. “Post-conflict Afghanistan construction and return of refugees is important. We want people to return to their homes safely. For that, we need international support.”
The foreign minister further said he also met with foreign ministers from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and said that the next step should be engagement with central Asian republics.
“For this to take place we should hold talks. We need to have an engagement if there is peace in Afghanistan. And secondly how through dialogue we can increase regional connectivity. I think it is appropriate we should sit with each other and hold a dialogue.”
Just hours after the US-Taliban peace deal, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani rejected a key component of the agreement that calls for the release of thousands of insurgent prisoners.
In a sign of a bumpy road ahead, Ghani pushed back against a clause in the deal that calls for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 prisoners and for the Afghan government to release up to 5,000 prisoners.
“There is no commitment to releasing 5,000 prisoners,” Ghani said.
“This is the right and the self-will of the people of Afghanistan. It could be included in the agenda of the intra-Afghan talks, but cannot be a prerequisite for talks.”
He added that any prisoner release was “not in the authority of the US, it is in the authority of the Afghan government.”