KABUL: Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has said he will visit Pakistan next month. “I’ve received an invitation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a couple of days back,” Karzai told a group of journalists at his residence in Kabul on Tuesday. He thanked Premier Nawaz and prayed for his recovery from a major heart surgery.
Karzai said cordial relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were in the interest of both the neighbours. He praised Pakistan and its people for extending ‘tremendous support and hospitality’ to millions of Afghan refugees at a very crucial time. “The Afghans will remember their unprecedented support forever,” he added.
However, Karzai, who was known for his Pakistan-bashing during his elongated presidency, did not miss the opportunity to find fault with Pakistan’s Afghan policy. “The Pakistani establishment should focus on strengthening friendly relations with the Afghans instead of using pressure tactics,” he said. “Strategic depth should not be imposed on us – this should be replaced with a policy of friendship.”
Pakistan has long accused arch-rival India of using Afghan soil against Pakistan. And Kabul’s India leaning is no secret either. Asked about the ‘third country’ undermining Kabul-Islamabad relations, Karzai said: “It shows our weaknesses.” He added that the ‘third force’ has been involved in Afghanistan since long but Kabul never allowed it to materialise its dreams.
He said all issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan could easily be resolved politically through mutual understanding. He sought to quash the impression that the Afghan government could not take decisions as a sovereign nation.
Asked about Islamabad’s reservations over Afghanistan’s growing relations with India, Karzai said, “Afghanistan never objected to Pakistan’s relations with other countries. Every nation has the right to promote relations with other countries.” He said Pakistan had no right to object to the sovereign rights of its neighbours. “But yes, Pakistan has the right to ensure the territory of its neighbours is not used against it.”
The former president welcomed reconciliation between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and Gulbudin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan. “I support all steps towards peace and reconciliation. Peace is the only way for survival.”
He also welcomed willingness reportedly shown by the Mullah Rasool-led breakaway faction of the Afghan Taliban to politically engage with Kabul.