Congressmen advise stern stance towards Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: Testifying before Congress on the Taliban victory in Afghanistan on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken heard from lawmakers across party lines who pushed for a harder line on Pakistan given its alleged role in the war-plagued country.

Blinken told the lawmakers that the United States will reassess its relationship with Pakistan given its role in Afghanistan over the last twenty years and beyond.

“This is one of the things we are going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers on Monday during a congressional hearing on post-Afghan withdrawal from Kabul.

Blinken maintained that Pakistan’s role was detrimental to US interests in the region, as it had a “multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours.” “It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, its one that’s involved harboring members of the Taliban including the Haqqanis. It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken said, adding that Pakistan’s concern in Afghanistan had also been influenced by India and the role India was playing in Afghanistan.

At least two Congressmen, both Democrats, Bill Keating and Joaquin Castro focused on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan terming it “duplicitous.” They also mentioned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public statements after the Taliban took over Kabul last month.

Keating asked Blinken: “How do we reassess that relationship how we, how we learn from their actions? And when we go forward. What do we do, what are some of the big issues that we should have stakes in the ground that we should have in dealing with Pakistan and the way they’ve acted over these decades?”

Responding to questions, Blinken said Pakistan needs to line up with the international community to force the Taliban regime to uphold the basic rights of Afghan people, women, and minorities.

“What we have to look at is an insistence that every country, to include Pakistan, make good on the expectations that the international community has of what is required of a Taliban-led government if it’s to receive any legitimacy of any kind or any support,” he told the committee.

He said the priorities included ensuring the Taliban let out people who want to leave Afghanistan and respect the rights of women, girls and minorities, as well as adhere to promises that the country not again become “a haven for outward-directed terror.”

Foreign media reports: Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back Monday against harsh Republican criticism of the handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the Biden administration inherited a deal with the Taliban to end the war, but no plan for carrying it out.

In a sometimes contentious hearing Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken sought to blunt complaints from angry GOP lawmakers about the administration’s response to the quick collapse of the Afghan government and, more specifically, the State Department’s actions to evacuate Americans and others.

Blinken echoed White House talking points blaming the Trump administration for the situation that President Joe Biden inherited in Afghanistan. “We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” he said, maintaining that the administration had done the right thing in ending 20 years of war.

“We made the right decision in ending America’s longest-running war,” said Blinken. Earlier, in an interview to a US media outlet, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed Khan said that Pakistan is monitoring the ability of the new Taliban government in Afghanistan to deliver on the commitments and promises to uphold human rights that they have made to the international community before extending recognition to it.

“Whether the Taliban actually abide by those (commitments) is their call,” he said. “But we have basically laid out our expectations, which is that we want the rights of everyone to be respected,” he said, when asked under what conditions Pakistan would recognise the Taliban government.

“We want that Afghani territory not be used against any other country, including Pakistan. We want human rights and women’s rights to be preserved.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed regional and bilateral matters of interest along with the evolving situation in Afghanistan, urging that the world should engage with the war-weary country instead of leaving it alone at this critical juncture.Khan received a telephone call from President Putin and the two leaders exchanged views on regional and bilateral matters of interest, according to a statement by the PM Office.

Prime Minister Khan underlined the need for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan, stressing that “the Afghan people should not be abandoned at this crucial juncture.

Underscoring the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan for regional security and prosperity, he emphasised the urgent need for provision of humanitarian assistance to the country and the imperative of averting an economic crisis.

Imran stressed that close coordination and consultations between Pakistan and Russia on the evolving situation in Afghanistan were of crucial importance. Recalling their earlier telephone conversation of August 25, the two leaders exchanged views on the latest developments of Afghanistan, bilateral cooperation, and collaboration in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

In the bilateral context, the prime minister emphasised growing cooperation across a range of sectors and reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further upgrade the overall relationship. He underscored that strengthening trade, investments and energy cooperation were the cornerstones of engagement with Russia.

He also reaffirmed his government’s resolve for early realisation of the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project. The two leaders also renewed their invitation to each other to visit their countries. The two leaders agreed to remain in close contact, according to the statement.



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