ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday suggested inviting Taliban-run Afghanistan to a regional forum of six countries to help avert a humanitarian and economic crisis in the country.
The Taliban on Tuesday announced a new government and named Mullah Hasan Akhund, an associate of the movement’s late founder Mullah Omar, as the head of the interim set-up, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the movement’s political office, as one of the two deputies.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood, speaking at a virtual conference that brought together neighbours Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkmenistan to discuss Afghan strategy, floated the idea of inviting the new rulers in Kabul to future gatherings.
“I also suggest that we may give consideration to the idea to invite Afghanistan in future,” Qureshi said.
“Participation of Afghanistan will augment this forum’s effectiveness in pursuing our shared objectives for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
According to a Foreign Office handout, the meeting aimed “to work together for the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which is essential to forge strong economic links”.
“The neighbours of Afghanistan have a vital stake in the stability of the country. A peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan will contribute towards transit trade, people-to-people exchanges and security in the region,” it said.
It followed a similar virtual meeting of the special representatives of the five countries for Afghanistan held on Monday.
An opening statement at the conference said the neighbours agreed on closer cooperation to avert a looming humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.
The United Nations has said basic services are unravelling in Afghanistan, with food and other aid about to run out. More than half a million people have been displaced internally this year.
“In the wake of recent developments, the key priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis that can exacerbate the suffering of the Afghans,” Qureshi said in a live telecast, reading from a statement. “Equally important is to take steps to prevent an economic meltdown in the country.”
Afghanistan’s neighbours would require a coordinated approach to cope with challenges stemming from the regime change in Kabul after U.S. and NATO forces left, the statement said.
It said those challenges included border security, preventing Afghan soil from being used as a base for terrorism and a possible influx of refugees.
The interim government is stacked with veterans from their hard-line rule in the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the US-led coalition.
Mohammad Hasan Akhund will head the government while the group’s co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar will be the deputy leader, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announced.
Taliban’s deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani will be the acting interior minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi will be the acting foreign minister, political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai will be the acting deputy foreign minister and Mullah Yaqoob will be the acting defence minister, he announced during a press conference in Kabul.
The heads of various other ministries will be appointed soon, Mujahid added. “All groups have been represented in the cabinet,” he said.
So far, Pakistan has not commented on the formation of the government.
— With additional input from Reuters
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