Pakistan’s interior minister said Sunday that family members of the Afghan Taliban live in his country, including the area around the capital, Islamabad. Members of the insurgent group are being treated in local hospitals.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad acknowledged this in an interview broadcast by a private Pakistani television channel, Geo News.
This is a far cry from Islamabad’s consistent rejection of allegations made by Afghan leaders. The Afghan side says the Taliban are using Pakistani territory to direct and sustain the insurgency in Afghanistan.
“Taliban families live here, in Rawat, Loibel, Balakahu and Tarnol in Pakistan,” Rashid told the Urdu-language television network, citing the names of those places on the outskirts of Islamabad. “Sometimes their bodies arrive here, sometimes their wounded come to the hospital for treatment,” he said.
The nearly 2,600-kilometer open border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has long been blamed for facilitating militant and other illegal activities between the two countries.
In addition, Pakistani officials say there are about 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. The country has sometimes served as a hideout for Taliban insurgents. Many displaced Afghan families have fled years of war and turmoil in their impoverished country.
Separately, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters Sunday that violence and chaos could grip Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO allies withdraw all troops from the country by a Sept. 11 deadline.
“Violence is increasing there (in Afghanistan) and obviously Pakistan is concerned about it,” Qureshi said in his home city of Multan in eastern Pakistan.
He warned that if the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates and turns into a civil war, it would be bad for Afghanistan and could also undermine Pakistan’s gains in fighting terrorism and trigger a renewed influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan.
Qureshi said, “We have already hosted and cared for nearly 3 million Afghan refugees and we cannot take in more because we cannot afford that burden (financially).”