Won’t host more Afghan refugees: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not welcome another influx of refugees from Afghanistan in case of deterioration of the situation there, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Tuesday, expressing apprehensions that some “anti-Pakistan elements” could enter the country in the guise of refugees.

In a statement from Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, Qureshi alleged that India, “by playing the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan”, was disturbing regional peace, and urged the international community to stop New Delhi from the negative attitude.

“Pakistan is the only country, which, despite its limited resources, is hosting 3 million Afghan refugees for decades, however, it cannot afford to welcome more refugees if the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates again,” he said in the statement.

“Since under the guise of Afghan refugees, some anti-Pakistan elements could enter the country,” Qureshi said, adding that it was an obligation to remain cautious. “Pakistan by sacrificing 70,000 lives and suffering huge economic losses has paid a heavy price in the war against terrorism.”

He considered most of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan as innocent and expressed his desire that they returned to their country. “Pakistan wanted to help the Afghan people on humanitarian grounds, but also wanted to ensure the safety and security of its own people,” he added.

The statement warned that the neighbouring countries would be affected by the Afghanistan situation. Qureshi said that India should “let Afghanistan live with peace” and urged the international community to prohibit it from the negative attitude.

The foreign minister stated that Pakistan wanted to adopt a joint strategy on Afghanistan after consulting the important countries of the region. He added that he wanted to utilise his visit to Tajikistan to discuss the Afghan situation with important countries of the region.

“As Pakistan is fulfilling its responsibilities, the improved situation in Afghanistan will benefit all. If, God forbid, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, all will be affected,” Qureshi said. “Pakistan also desires sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

He said after a detailed discussion already held with his Tajik counterpart on the situation in Afghanistan on Monday, he held meetings with foreign ministers of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan on Tuesday. He was also expected to meet the foreign ministers of China and Russia, he added.

Asking “how long fingers will be pointed towards Pakistan?” Qureshi urged the Afghan people not to repeat the mistakes of the past and find a way by sitting together. “We invite the important Afghan personalities for dialogue. Afghan leaders should sit and tell how we can help them,” he added.

The foreign minister is in Tajikistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Foreign Ministers (SCO-CFM) meeting.

According to a Foreign Office statement, Qureshi discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan and the way forward during a meeting with his Afghan counterpart, Hanif Atmar. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s consistent support to a united Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours.

In view of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, the foreign minister urged the Afghan leaders to achieve a negotiated political settlement at the earliest, stressing that such an outcome would bring peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan. (Express tribune)

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