Pakistan: Don't Isolate the Taliban 09/24 06:19
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all,
don't isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to
deal with the fledgling government that is suddenly running the country next
door once again -- Afghanistan's resurgent, often-volatile Taliban.
Pakistan's government is proposing that the international community develop
a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban -- with
incentives if they fulfill its requirements -- and then sit down face to face
and talk it out with the militia's leaders.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi outlined the idea Wednesday
in an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the U.N. General
Assembly's meeting of world leaders.
"If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for
themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,"
Qureshi told the AP. "At the same time, the international community has to
realize: What's the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and
can they turn away from this reality?"
He said Pakistan "is in sync with the international community" in wanting to
see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to
increase their foothold, and for the Taliban to ensure "that Afghan soil is
never used again against any country."
"But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach," Qureshi said. "Try
an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt
with has not worked."
Expectations from the Taliban leadership could include an inclusive
government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls,
Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government might be motivated by
receiving development, economic and reconstruction aid to help recover from
decades of war.
He urged the United States, the International Monetary Fund and other
countries that have frozen Afghan government funds to immediately release the
money so it can be used "for promoting normalcy in Afghanistan." And he pledged
that Pakistan is ready to play a "constructive, positive" role in opening
communications channels with the Taliban because it, too, benefits from peace
This is the second time that the Taliban, who adhere to a strict version of
Islam, have ruled Afghanistan. The first time, from 1996 to 2001, ended when
they were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition after the 9/11 attacks, which were
directed by Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan.
During that rule, Taliban leaders and police barred girls from school and
prohibited women from working outside the home or leaving it without a male
escort. After they were overthrown, Afghan women still faced challenges in the
male-dominated society but increasingly stepped into powerful positions in
government and numerous fields.
But when the U.S. withdrew its military from Afghanistan last month, the
government collapsed and a new generation of the Taliban resurged, taking over
almost immediately. In the weeks since, many countries have expressed
disappointment that the Taliban's interim government is not inclusive as its
spokesman had promised.
While the new government has allowed young girls to attend school, it has
not yet allowed older girls to return to secondary school, and most women to
return to work despite a promise in April that women "can serve their society
in the education, business, health and social fields while maintaining correct
The challenges ahead were evident Thursday, when one of the founders of the
Taliban said the hard-line movement will once again carry out executions and
amputations of hands, though perhaps not in public.
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, who was the chief enforcer of the Taliban's harsh
interpretation of Islamic law when they last ruled Afghanistan, dismissed
outrage over the Taliban's executions in the past, which sometimes took place
in front of crowds at a stadium. He warned the world against interfering with
"Everyone criticized us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have
never said anything about their laws and their punishments," Turabi told The
Associated Press, speaking in Kabul. "No one will tell us what our laws should
be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran."
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a long and
sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbor that includes attempts to
prevent terrorism there and, some say, also encouraging it. The Islamabad
government has a fundamental vested interest in ensuring that whatever the new
Afghanistan offers, it is not a threat to Pakistan.
That, Qureshi says, requires a steady and calibrated approach.
"It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and
that will set the tone for recognition eventually," the Pakistani minister
said. The good news, he said: The Taliban are listening, "and they are not
insensitive to what is being said by neighbors and the international community."
How does he know they're listening? He says the interim government, drawn
mostly from Afghanistan's dominant Pashtun ethnic group, made some additions on
Tuesday. It added representatives from the country's ethnic minorities --
Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are Shiite Muslims in the majority Sunni Muslim
"Yes, there are no women yet," Qureshi said. "But let us let the situation
He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in coming days and weeks
that will enhance their acceptability.
"What the international community can do, in my view, is sit together and
work out a roadmap," Qureshi said. "And if they fulfill those expectations,
this is what the international community can do to help them stabilize their
economy. This is the humanitarian assistance that can be provided. This is how
they can help rebuild Afghanistan, reconstruction and so on and so forth."
He added: "With this roadmap ahead, I think an international engagement can
be more productive."
On Wednesday night, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after a
meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that all
five nations -- the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France -- want
"an Afghanistan at peace, stable, where humanitarian aid can be distributed
without problems or discrimination."
He also described a hoped-for "Afghanistan where the rights of women and
girls are respected, an Afghanistan that won't be a sanctuary for terrorism, an
Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government representing the different
sectors of the population."
And on Thursday, the top U.S. diplomat said it was "critical" that the
international community remained united in ensuring that the Taliban meet all
commitments they made -- including freedom for Afghans to travel, respect of
human rights and barring terrorists from the country -- before granting
legitimacy and support beyond humanitarian assistance.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he delivered that message both to the
U.N. Security Council and foreign ministers of the 20 major economic powers.
Japan's Foreign Ministry said Thursday that at the closed G20 meeting,
"participants confirmed the importance of ... sending a unified message so that
the Taliban takes steps in the right direction."
Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community
can work out how to approach the situation. In the meantime, he asserted,
things seem to be stabilizing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized
power on Aug. 15, he said, Pakistan has received information that the
law-and-order situation has improved, fighting has stopped and many internally
displaced Afghans are going home.
"That's a positive sign," Qureshi said.
He said Pakistan hasn't seen a new influx of Afghan refugees -- a sensitive
issue for Pakistanis, who are highly motivated to prevent it. A humanitarian
crisis, a foundering economy and workers who return to jobs and school but
aren't getting salaries and don't have money could cause Afghans to flee across
the porous border into Pakistan, which has suffered economically from such
arrivals over decades of conflict.
Qureshi prescribed patience and realism. After all, he says, every previous
attempt to stabilize Afghanistan has failed, so don't expect new efforts to
produce immediate success with the Taliban. If the United States and its allies
"could not convince them or eliminate them in two decades, how will you do it
in the next two months or the next two years?" he wondered.
Asked whether he had a prediction of what Afghanistan might be like in six
months, Qureshi turned the question back on his AP interviewer, replying: "Can
you guarantee me U.S. behavior over the next six months?"