Sharif urges Pakistan neutrality on Afghanistan
Pakistan should stop trying to influence affairs in Afghanistan, the opposition leader said today, while admitting that the pro-Afghan Taliban policy he pursued when he was prime minister in the 1990s was a failure.
Islamabad: Pakistan should stop trying to
influence affairs in Afghanistan, the opposition leader said
today, while admitting that the pro-Afghan Taliban policy he
pursued when he was prime minister in the 1990s was a failure.
Nawaz Sharif`s comments come as he tries to gain
political traction and deflect criticism that his party is
beholden to extremist elements. Just last week, he pushed the
government to open talks with elements of the Pakistani
Taliban, and the ruling party agreed to his proposal to hold a
national conference on stopping terrorism.
The remarks also come as Pakistan tries to weigh in on
reconciliation efforts between Afghanistan`s government, the
US and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan`s historical interest in
Afghanistan is largely a result of its desire to assert itself
in the region and attain a strategic advantage over archrival
In an interview with Pakistan`s Dunya TV that aired
yesterday and today, Sharif appeared to renounce a policy he
pursued with vigor while twice prime minister in the 1990s.
Back then, Pakistan openly supported the Afghan Taliban
movement as it pushed out other armed factions such as the
Northern Alliance and gained control of Kabul.
"Pakistan should abandon this thinking that Pakistan has
to keep influence in Afghanistan," said Sharif, who heads the
Pakistan Muslim League-N party. "Neither will they accept
influence, nor should the pro-influence-minded people here
insist on it."
"Our policy in the past has failed. Neither will such a
policy work in future. We have a centuries-old relationship,
and we can maintain this relationship only when we remain
neutral and support the government elected there with the
desire of the Afghan people."
It was unclear where Sharif would stand on the
reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. The role Pakistan would
play will likely fall primarily to its military, which
operates largely independent of the civilian government anyway
and which could be instrumental in bringing some armed Afghan
factions to the table.
Sharif`s party, which controls the government of Punjab
province but sits in opposition in the federal government, is
considered more conservative and aligned with pro-Taliban
parties than the national ruling Pakistan People`s Party.
The PML-N has been criticized in recent months for not
going after militant outfits in Punjab, a stance analysts say
is driven by its reliance on banned militant groups to deliver
key votes during elections. The frustration over the party`s
dawdling has grown more acute since a bombing at a popular
Sufi shrine in Punjab`s capital, Lahore, last week killed 47