Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said Pakistan has played the role it had to play in the Afghan peace process, now it was up to the people of the country to decide their future.

“Pakistan has always been in favour of peace,” Qureshi told BBC Urdu in an interview. “Now it is up to the people of Afghanistan to decide what they want to do. They need to decide what they want to do about their future and what country do they want.”

The foreign minister also dismissed reports of Pakistan meddling in the country’s affairs. “Pakistan does not want to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal matters. We just want good relations with them,” he said.

When asked what Pakistan think of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said, “If you want peace, there is no other way other than an inclusive government. The more you take people together, the better it would be. I hope the setup in the future is more inclusive.”

Speaking about the issue of prisoners release between the Afghan government and Taliban, Qureshi said, “Prisoner exchanges have also happened in the past. If releasing the prisoners helps in making the environment more conducive, then I think President Ashraf Ghani should think about this decision openheartedly.”

He continued, “I am confident President Ghani will keep Afghanistan’s interests and peace. I also know that the Americans have been keeping him in the loop with all the developments.”

The foreign minister noted that the prisoner exchange cannot be one sided. “If the prisoner exchange happens it has to be from both sides,” Qureshi said.

Just hours after the US-Taliban peace deal, Ghani had rejected a key component of the agreement that called for the release of thousands of insurgent prisoners.

On the subject of spoilers, Qureshi said there were some elements which were not happy over the agreement.

“This is the first step towards peace and in the right direction,” Qureshi said, adding that some people did not want peace in the country for their own interests.

When asked if he was pointing towards a specific country, the foreign minister said he was not. “I am pointing towards those who wanted to use Afghanistan against Pakistan.”

“We do not want Afghanistan to be used by any group or organisation. We don’t want Afghanistan to be used against us or anyone."

On the subject of the post troops withdrawal situation in the country, Qureshi said, the agreement happened because there had been no mechanism in the past. “Previously, there had been no mechanism or oversight. Keeping these experiences in mind, steps are being taken so something such as groups taking over does not happen.”

“Of course spoilers are there, but we have to take steps keeping in mind the bigger picture,” Qureshi remarked.

Pakistan had earlier also warned about the role of spoilers wanting to sabotage the deal. Qureshi while addressing a press conference a day after the deal signing had said, "We have to keep eyes on them. A mechanism must be put in place to identify those playing a negative role."

Responding to a question about reluctance from the Afghan government, the foreign minister said, “If we look in the past there has always been a trust gap. Pakistan has always wanted to move forward. If we are stuck in the past, we will never be able to achieve what we want for the future.”

“We want our country to be safe,” he said. “There will be a border fence on the Pak-Afghan border to answer any allegations of movements on the border. I hope the Afghan government welcomes the decision and take it in a positive manner.”

Salient features of the deal

The deal envisions:

— A guarantee to prevent the use of Afghan soil by any international terrorist groups or individuals against the security of the United States and its allies;
— Provision of a timeline for the withdrawal of all US and coalition forces from Afghanistan;
— A political settlement resulting from intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations between the Taliban and an inclusive negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; and
— A permanent and comprehensive ceasefire