During the “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” a two-day conference in, Uzbekistan this past week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani started a verbal spat regarding the mounting tensions in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan.

President Ghani, who spoke before Prime Minister Khan at the conference, had alleged that 10,000 militants sneaked into Afghanistan from Pakistan to create unrest, after that the prime minister met the Afghan president on the sidelines of the conference but the visual communication of the previous showed that he was quite ‘reserved’ while meeting President Ghani.

When PM Imran Khan took the stage, he commented upon several pertaining issues regarding the unrest in Afghanistan as well as the regional stability regarding India, Russia, and Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan responded to the Afghan President’s allegation about Pakistan’s “negative role” within the Afghan peace process and labeled it “extremely unfair” as Pakistan has always been interested in the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the Region.

“Due to the Afghan conflict, Pakistan is the worst affected country, and it was unfair to blame Pakistan for turmoil in Afghanistan.”- with regards to refugee influx and growing violence within the neighboring country, the prime minister called upon the ECU Union (EU) and the international community to support Pakistan within the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees.

“President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years. The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict,” the PM said as he stopped reading from his written speech.

With the economy finally recovering after a difficult phase, the last thing Pak want is turbulence in Afghanistan. No country has tried harder than Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table for dialogue. It has made every effort, short of military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement.

He also said after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban were looking forward to their win within the current war in the neighboring country “Taliban are no longer willing to compromise after the United States gave a date for the withdrawal of troops. When there were 150,000 Nato troops […] that was the time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given […] why would they listen to us (Pakistan) when they are sensing victory,” he added.

He reminded the Afghan president that he wouldn’t have visited Kabul in November last year if Pakistan had not been interested in peace. “The whole idea was to look upon Pakistan as a partner in peace. I feel disappointed that we have been blamed for what is going on in Afghanistan,” Mr. Khan remarked.

Mr. Khan said the conflict could only be settled through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process resulting in a comprehensive negotiated political settlement, he also highlighted the importance of continued engagement of the international community to facilitate lasting peace in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO forces.

After the meeting, Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen Faiz Hamid, who accompanied the prime minister, told the media that a violation of border was being committed from Afghanistan and Pakistan security forces were being targeted. He said the present situation in Afghanistan was the result of longstanding conflict and therefore the US efforts to hunt for a military solution thereto.

In a conversation with Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about regional stability, he said that all the neighbours within the region could facilitate the Afghan social process. Through connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral spheres would connect Central Asian states with the world. The prime minister expressed these views at the international conference. President Ghani was also present at the conference. “It is altogether of our interests,” he reiterated.

Mr. Khan said Pakistan’s connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral spheres would open new avenues of prosperity within the region.

On the sideline of the conference, PM Khan met Josep Borrell, European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the ECU Commission, and discussed the Afghan conflict. Tweeting about the meeting, Mr. Borrell said: “Opportunity to satisfy with Prime Minister of [email protected] within the margins of the Tashkent #Connectivity Conference. Discussed security challenges and the impact of instability on the region. A peacefully negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is that the only way forward.”

Responding to an Indian journalist who approached the prime minister after the conference, Mr. Khan said the Indian Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology was the most hurdle within the normalization of ties with Pakistan. “We are trying to inform India … that we’ve been waiting … for an extended time, let’s live like civilized neighbors, … but what to try to, because the RSS ideology has come in the way.”

Pak-Uzbek Business Forum was attended by around 130 representatives of leading companies and business houses from Pakistan and therefore the activity resulted in the signing of agreements that are claimed to be worth $453 million.

PM Khan said: “I want to assure the business community of Uzbekistan that this relationship is just the beginning of the journey of development and prosperity.” He believed the railway’s project among Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan would convince be a revolutionary development.

“Pakistan is keen for peace in Afghanistan and considers it vital for trade connectivity among the regional countries,” he said, adding that such trade linkages helped in raising the living standards of the citizens.

Mr. Khan said Pakistan and Uzbekistan enjoyed relations rooted in common faith, culture, and history and offered a singular dimension to both the countries to explore one another in diverse areas.

In his speech, Uzbekistan PM Abdulla Aripov mentioned the strong ties between Pakistan and Uzbekistan in multiple areas of cooperation. He welcomed Mr. Khan on his official visit that he said would inaugurate a replacement area of cooperation and joint ventures between the two brotherly countries.

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