विशेष | शांतिपूर्ण वातावरण सुरक्षित करने के लिए अफगानिस्तान को भारत की मदद की सख्त जरूरत: तालिबान के गृह मंत्री हक्कानी

Afghanistan interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani in an exclusive interview to News18 said his government assures neighbouring countries that 'the land of Afghanistan will not be used against any country'. (Photo: Reuters File)

Just two days before the death of most wanted terrorist Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri – the mastermind of September 11, 2001 attacks — CNN-News18 spoke exclusively to chief of Haqqani network and interior minister of Afghanistan Sirajuddin Haqqani, around 1 km from Sherpur location where Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike.

Afghanistan’s interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani in an exclusive interview to CNN-News18 stressed that Afghanistan needs Indian government’s help in restarting developmental works, which would be an immense help for the beleaguered country.

“We need India’s cooperation to secure a peaceful environment. We need logistical support; we need India’s presence in the region so that the unfinished projects can be completed,” Haqqani told News18 in a television interview.

Welcoming India’s move to reopen Indian embassy in Kabul, Haqqani said the Afghan government has ensured that business establishments, diplomatic and national institutions are safe and secure.

On concerns by the Indian security establishments over Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba operating in Afghanistan, the minister said his government assures neighbouring countries and the world that “the land of Afghanistan will not be used against any country”.

With neighbouring Pakistan neck deep in economic debt, Haqqani said Asian countries can play a “vital and indispensable role in Pakistan in the current crisis”.

Edited interview:

Q. This is the first time you are speaking to an Indian TV channel journalist. Would you like to clarify your position for the Indian audience?

A: First of all, I thank your country, its countrymen and your channel for the interview. I extend my gratitude and respect. At the beginning of this interview, I wish to clear all doubts and suspicions that are prevailing in India and world at large that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has come into existence with support of Pakistan. I wish to draw your attention that the last 20 years in Afghanistan was the period of annexation, aggression and ulterior motives of the imperial forces to occupy the land of Afghanistan. Whatever, they wish to call it, it was a foreign occupation. Our holy jihad to free our country from the imperialistic power is our legitimate right. We strive to establish diplomatic relations with India, our neighbouring countries in the region and the world at large. Our freedom, sovereignty and self-respect is our legitimate right.

Q. What role do you think India can play in Afghanistan under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan? What are your views about India’s reopening its diplomatic mission?

Ans. India’s relation with Afghanistan is social. We have deep ties; governments change with the passage of time but we need India as it started some of the developmental projects in Afghanistan. Also, India and Afghanistan relations go back in history. The re-opening of Indian embassy (in Kabul) and its smooth functioning was the need of the hour. It is a good step and we appreciate it.

Q. The Indian security establishments have several concerns about Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operating from Afghanistan and the threat posed by them to India. Do you agree?

A. Afghanistan has been at war with external forces since 40 years, and in the last 20 years, we have been fighting the world for our legitimate rights. Our soil is not meant for foreigners but it belongs to the people of Afghanistan and we have assured to the neighbouring countries and world that the land of Afghanistan will not be used against any country.

Q. The Indian security agencies have always mentioned that they have a specific location of JeM and LeT camps operating in Afghanistan. Since you are the interior minister of Afghanistan, if the Indian government or security agencies give you the location of these camps, will you be able to act and cooperate with India?

A. Their (India’s) fears do not have any basis. We wish to have cordial relations with India, and such fears seem to be misplaced and undesirable.

Q: What guarantee of security would you give to the Indian diplomatic institutions, projects, and businessmen in Afghanistan at this stage when they want to operate normally?

A: I have already mentioned that such fears are baseless and we have established peace in the country and ensured that everyone in Afghanistan is safe and secure; we have ensured that the business establishments, national institutions and foreign investments are safe and secure. We have security forces in place to provide security to these establishments including all the diplomatic institutions. There is no credible fear for the projects, investments as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will prepare ground for their operations without any fear. We firmly assure you.

Q: As the interior minister, what kind of support are you expecting from India? Are you open to working together with security departments of India on some programmes?

A. Times in Afghanistan are very crucial. We have dialogues, discussions, debates with regard to security in the country. Pertaining to these issues, we need India’s cooperation to secure a peaceful environment. We need logistical support; we need India’s presence in the region so that the unfinished projects can be completed. The foremost need of the hour in the country is to strengthen the security infrastructure, which was shaky in the previous and subsequent governments, and this is the first and top priority, and we need India’s support.

Q: One major area of concern is the growing threat of Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) and the network of Al-Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan? What is your take on this?

A: As we have promised to the world, the Islamic world is also in arms against ISIS. To control and throw it out, many steps have been taken. And as far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, it has no presence in Afghanistan and is no more of a threat and the world should not feel threatened about the already dead outfit. Some western forces, which are trying to destabilise the country, are being taken care of by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Q. What steps are you taking as the interior minister to stop Afghanistan from becoming a global terror hub again?

A: We have reiterated that the Treaty of Doha, which was signed, will be implemented in letter and spirit, and we have a message to the world that no such terror outfit will make Afghanistan its centre of terror operation. Our security agencies are competent enough to prevent and to nip such attempts in the bud, and we are firmly united against such forces.

Q: How do you describe Afghanistan’s relations with Iran and Pakistan?

A: The promises we have made to the world, we are striving hard to have friendly and cordial relations with neighbouring countries.

Q: The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has recently taken a strong stand against unprovoked Pakistani firing on the Durand line. What is your position on the Durand Line? Isn’t Pakistan’s deployment of suicide bombers at the Durand Line scary?

A: This issue had been lingering on with the past governments. There have been issues which have cropped up in last 20 years and we are working on them sincerely. We have formed teams to carry out the survey and investigation/research. The issue of the said line is right of the people, we leave this decision to the will of people, the people will decide and we will honour that, we will not take any decision.

Q: What kind of aid or support do you expect from the Indian government in the coming days and in which sectors?

A: India has historical ties with Afghanistan. India had started some research and developmental programmes in Afghanistan viz Salma Dam had constructed one historical building (may be referring to the construction of Parliament). We want that the unfinished projects once again may be get started and completed. Afghanistan needs them (and India’s help) desperately. India has a name in technology and has trust in the international community that it fulfils its promises.

Q: Pakistan has blocked the new corridor and created a lot of problems for Afghanistan — wheat supply was delayed.

A: These days the will of the people of Afghanistan and the intention of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is known to the whole world. We wish that this obstacle may get resolved at the earliest. The wheat should reach the needy people. We, after 40 years of Jihad and holy war, have achieved this feat, that is, we have established peace and a secure environment. We request both countries (Pakistan and India) that they resolve their issues and open the vistas of trade. Moreover, the people of Afghanistan need cooperation from both the countries.

Q: What are your views on how Pakistan can play a constructive role in enhancing trade and economic cooperation in Central Asia?

A: Pakistan, too, is facing economic crisis. We are closely associated with Pakistan as a neighbouring country, we wish that its problems get resolved and Asian countries can play a vital and indispensable role in Pakistan in the current crisis. Asian countries can reduce the burden of Afghanistan too. The Asian countries that you have mentioned can play a vital role to dispel all the worries that prevail in the region and we don’t have boundaries for the trade relations. These countries should work together to resolve the problems of the people living in the region. Sincere efforts by the regional countries can make the life of the people in the region liveable.

Q: The US has frozen around $7 billion of Afghan assets. Do you think it is fair?

A: The world is watching these shameful actions of the US and everybody knows that these assets belong to the people of Afghanistan. It is inappropriate on part of the US, though we have promised all kind of support to the US to defreeze the legitimate assets of Afghan people. We have not seen any lawful and just decision on the issue.

Q: What is your message to the US on the first anniversary of its troops’ pullout from Afghanistan?

A: We have conveyed our message to the US that we have completed one year very comfortably, without any hitch. The Islamic Emirate has passed this one year with virtue and the US has the duty to acknowledge this.

Q: Why are women being denied basic right to study, to work or be part of the government? How the Taliban treat 50% of the Afghan population is key to how the rest of the world will view Taliban.

A: For women’s education, people can come to Afghanistan and see themselves that the Islamic Emirate has bestowed on women their rights which were due. Some issues are pending and we are working hard to overcome them.

Q: On the attacks on minorities including Sikhs and Hindus, how are you going to ensure their security?

A: Not only on Sikhs but all the religions, which exist in Afghanistan, are facing attacks. This is an attack on the brotherhood and no religion or community has escaped from attacks. We firmly condemn this. This is not an attack particularly against the Sikhs but against the diverse religions and communities.

Q: What is your take on intra-Afghan talks?

A: We have put in place a commission, and other works are underway. Our intentions are very clear, and we have been ostensibly making them public. Incorporation of stakeholders is prime and other issues will be resolved on their own.

Q: How do you view Chinese policies and investment in Afghanistan?

A: China or for that matter any other country, which is willing to invest in Afghanistan, we have a road map that Afghanistan is not meant for investment experiments. Every nation, which has a good intention of helping Afghanistan, is welcome.

Q: Can the Indian telecom companies assist in rolling out 5G?

A: This is required. We will engage India with regard to communication. After a prolonged deliberation, we need it for the interest of Afghanistan. We are weak in this field and we look forward to having discussions with the concerned ministry (Indian) and come up with a robust plan.

Q: Are you interested in cricket? Who is your favourite cricketer?

A: This sport is liked by the youth, especially the teenagers, but we had stumbled into bad times and we were engaged in bloodshed and wars. We have not fully displayed our happiness and likings towards the sports. Now that we have a good time, we will embark on sports.

Q: Do you want Indian cricketers coming to the Afghan Cricket League can guide Afghans?

A: This is a good gesture; we see that the sport is a medium to cement ties. We welcome such steps, which will bring our people together.

Q: When are you coming to India?

A: When do you want me (to visit)?

Q. What message would you want to give to Indians?

A: I extend the message of wellness to India as I have already mentioned that governments change but the relations between people don’t. I wish that the relations between Afghans and Indians remain so in future.

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