ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday formally acknowledged that a US drone strike in Nushki had killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour and vowed to continue working with its Quadrilateral Coordination Group partners for reconciliation in Afghanistan despite its reservations about dichotomies in the American strategy.
Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in a rare appearance at the foreign ministry’s weekly briefing confirmed Mansour’s death, saying “all indicators confirm that the person killed in the drone strike was Mullah Akhtar Mansour”.
The confirmation came a day after the Taliban announced their chief’s death and chose Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada as his successor.
Pakistani authorities, who had earlier withheld confirmation of the Taliban leader’s death until a DNA test report, went ahead to corroborate it even though the results of the examination are still awaited.
Aziz confirms death of Mullah Mansour
It was, however, important to note that the Pakistan government, which believes Mansour’s death in the US drone strike from Afghan soil was a setback for efforts aimed at restoration of peace in the neighbouring country, agreed to remain engaged with the quadrilateral process that besides itself involves the US, Afghanistan and China.
Mr Aziz said that Mansour’s death “had added to the complexity of the Afghan conflict”.
Elaborating his contention, he said: “We believe that this action has undermined the Afghan peace process … we believe this approach will further destabilise Afghanistan, which will have negative implications for the region, especially due to the presence of a large number of terrorist groups in Afghanistan.”
Notwithstanding its reservations, the Pakistan government renewed its commitment to peace efforts.
“Pakistan believes that a politically negotiated settlement remains the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan.…will continue to pursue the objective in close consultation with Afghanistan government and other members of the QCG,” Mr Aziz said.
Pakistan had earlier lodged a protest with the United States over the drone strike and described it as a violation of its sovereignty.
Mr Aziz regretted that US policy on peace in Afghanistan was marred by inconsistencies.
“On one side you want to start talks with them while on the other…you are killing them which is not a consistent attitude,” he said.
The adviser underscored that the decision at the last QCG meeting in Islamabad about continuing efforts for a politically negotiated settlement had not been respected by the US.
He opined that the QCG members would have to take “a collective decision” on how to take the process forward.
He said bilateral consultations with US, China and Afghanistan had begun to assess the situation in the aftermath of Mansour’s killing. Efforts, he added, would also be made to convince the Taliban to rejoin the peace process.
Rejecting the possibility of connivance at an official level, Mr Aziz in response to a question said that Mansour had been “travelling on a fake name and passport” and it was difficult to keep eye on “each and every person”.
“I don’t think we can infer that our security agencies knew or should have known about his travels,” he emphasised.
Mr Aziz clarified that Pakistan did not look at Iran’s Chabahar port as a rival facility and was exploring possibilities of developing its links with Gwadar.
Tehran is developing Chabahar port with Indian assistance and signed an agreement with Delhi and Kabul this week for making it a transit hub.
Detractors in Pakistan see the port as providing India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan, while Afghanistan’s reliance on Pakistan for access to Indian Ocean would also reduce.
But, Mr Aziz did not see Chabahar posing any serious challenge to Gwadar.
“These routes are all complementary to each other and economics will decide which route is used more frequently and by whom. I think, there is nothing to worry about and regional cooperation overall is a desired idea. All these ports and processes are complementary to each other,” he noted.
The adviser said that Pakistan was also enhancing its connectivity with Iran.
“There is a proposal to make Gwadar and Chabahar sister ports and a road is also being built between them. So there is no conflict,” he said.
Courtesy : Dawn News