Pakistan PM suggests international community should ‘meaningfully engage’ with Taliban

During the virtual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for increased engagement with the Taliban administration in Afghanistan.

Sharif highlighted the urgent need for critical support to help Afghanistan combat terrorism, prevent an economic collapse, and avert a humanitarian crisis.

“The international community currently finds itself in a standstill with Afghanistan,” Sharif said. “The cascade of unmet expectations has meant that critical support needed by Afghanistan to ward off a grave humanitarian crisis, prevent an economic meltdown and to combat terrorism, has been withheld. This policy needs an urgent reset.”

“The international community should meaningfully engage with the Interim Afghan government, to take the next steps,” he added.

Addressing the issue of terrorism, Sharif emphasized the condemnation of terrorism in all its forms, including state-sponsored terrorism.

“The killing of innocent people can never be justified, regardless of the cause or pretext, and called for clear and unambiguous condemnation of terrorism without using it as a tool for diplomatic point scoring,” he said.

Sharif also praised China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a transformative force for connectivity, stability, peace, and prosperity in the region.

He specifically mentioned the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the BRI, as a potential game-changer for connectivity and development in the entire region.

The summit provided an opportunity for Sharif, along with the leaders of China, India, and Russia, to strengthen ties and enhance cooperation within the SCO.

The SCO aims to expand its influence and counter Western influence in the region. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also participated in the proceedings, as Iran is set to become the ninth member of the group.