Pakistan acts to defuse tensions with Afghanistan

Pakistan moved on Wednesday to cool a row with Afghanistan over reported comments by Prime Minister Imran Khan that were taken to suggest that Kabul should set up an interim government to help smooth peace talks with the Taliban.

The comments, made to Pakistani journalists on Monday, prompted a furious reaction in Afghanistan and led to the government recalling its Ambassador in protest at what it described as “irresponsible” remarks. It was the third time in just over a month that Kabul has demanded an explanation from Islamabad over comments related to peace talks.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Mr. Khan’s comments, reported in various forms by Pakistani media outlets and picked up in Afghanistan, had been taken out of context. “In his comments, the PM had referred to Pakistan’s model where elections are held under an interim government. The comments should not be misinterpreted to imply interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs,” the Ministry said. Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah did not appear to be appeased by Pakistan’s clarifying statement. “The remarks about Afghanistan’s future… that were expressed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, are not acceptable for any Afghan citizen,” he said.

U.S. and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks but the Taliban has refused to talk to the Afghan government which it considers an illegitimate “puppet” regime. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose mandate officially expires in May, faces a re-election battle this year, but amid gathering political uncertainty, the election date has been twice postponed and is now due to take place on September 28.


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