200 Pakistani Taliban militants arrested by Afghan authorities, foreign minister confirms
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani on Thursday confirmed that 200 members of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had been arrested by Afghan authorities, saying Pakistan would ask for them to be extradited if they were not Afghan citizens.
Pakistan says the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, have become emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war. Authorities say the insurgents, who are allied but separate from the Afghan Taliban, have found sanctuaries and have even been living openly in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.
The TTP has stepped up its attacks on Pakistan since November last year when it unilaterally called off a tenuous peace deal that had been brokered by Kabul.
The Afghan government says it does not permit its soil to be used by armed groups against other nations.
“During our last meeting, they [Afghan Taliban] have told us about it [arrests] and we expect these [TTP] people will be kept behind bars and dealt with according to the law,” Jilani told reporters, adding that Islamabad would ask for them to be extradited if they were not Afghans.
A spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban did not respond to request for comment on the arrests.
Jilani said Pakistan’s position on Palestine had not changed, amid US-sponsored efforts to normalize Israeli relations with Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia.
Israel has moved closer to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco following a US-driven diplomatic initiative in 2020 which pushed for normalization of relations. Expectations that Israel might normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s two holiest shrines, were ratcheted up last week after the Saudi crown prince said in an interview the two countries were moving steadily closer to normalizing relations with Israel.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and has repeatedly called for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
“The position of Pakistan on Israel and Palestine was the same yesterday and is the same today, and it will always be the same in the future as well,” the Pakistani foreign minister said.
“Our policy is linked to the rights of Palestinian people,” Jilani added.
“The issue of Palestine’s right to self-determination is the same as Kashmiris and if we say that it is the same for the Palestinians and Kashmiris then it becomes part of our national interest to support both.”
Speaking about the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) — a civil-military hybrid forum — set up in June to attract foreign funding, particularly from GCC nations, in agriculture, mining, information technology, defense production and energy, Jilani said the forum had become “extremely popular” among international investors and was attracting interest from Middle Eastern countries.
“There are a lot of MOUs and agreements which are in the works, and we are expecting delegations from respective GCC countries very soon,” Jilani said, adding that agreements would be finalized in the fields of agriculture, information technology, mines, and minerals, energy, and defense production, mostly as joint ventures.
On reports that India was denying visas to Pakistani fans wanting to travel to the neighboring country to watch the Cricket World Cup from Oct. 5-Nov. 19, Jilani said Islamabad would take it up with Delhi through “diplomatic channels.”
“I believe PCB [Pakistan Cricket Board] should also play an active role in talking to the Indian Cricket Board because this is also in ICC [International Cricket Council] rules, that if a team is visiting your country, you allow its spectators to visit,” the foreign minister said.
“And if ICC has this rule to allow spectators of the visiting team to go to that place, then they should put pressure on India to implement it.”
Travel between the two arch-rivals is usually an issue for players also due to the diplomatic tensions between the governments. Pakistan and India haven’t played a bilateral series in any format since 2012-13.