Islamabad: Pakistan has for long completely rejected assertions of having Taliban footprints on its soil. However, incumbent Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has admitted that Islamabad not only hosts families of the Taliban, but it also is aware of fighters getting medical treatment in the country.
Ahmed, well known for his outspoken attitude, has admitted that families of Taliban fighters reside in the country and many of the group's members receive medical treatment in local hospitals.
In an interview with a local television network, the Minister said many of those families reside in the surrounding areas of Pakistan's capital Islamabad.
"Taliban families live here, in Pakistan, in Rawat, Loi Ber, Bara Kahu and Tarnol areas. Sometimes their (fighters) dead bodies arrive and sometimes they come here in the hospital to get medical treatment," he added.
Ahmed's admission completely negates Islamabad's outright rejection of allegations levelled by Kabul and Washington that Taliban terrorists use Pakistani soil to direct and sustain their activities in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Pakistan has counter-blamed Afghanistan for facilitating militants and other illegal movements from its 2,600 km-long open borders into Pakistan.
Pakistan has also maintained that it facilitates about three million Afghan refugees for decades, which at times does serve as a hiding place for the Taliban insurgents.
Recently, the Pakistan Foreign Office had categorically rejected the remarks of the Press Office of the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs, regarding activities of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan.
"The assertion of the Afghan side are contrary to facts on ground and various reports of the UN, which also corroborate the presence and activities of over 5000-strong TTP in Afghanistan"" said the Pakistan Foreign Office.
"Over the last many years, TTP has launched several gruesome terrorist attacks inside Pakistan using Afghan soil without any retribution from its hosts. The 12th Report of the UN Monitoring Team issued in June 2021, acknowledges TTP's distinctive anti-Pakistan objectives and notes its location within Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.
"The TTP following its orchestrated reunification with its splinter groups with the help of Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs), its continued presence in Afghanistan with impunity and its cross-border attacks against Pakistan pose persistent threat to our security and stability," the Office added.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has stated that Pakistan's gains against terrorism, could be undermined severely if the security situation worsens in Afghanistan, and lead towards a civil war.
"We are already hosting and looking after almost three million Afghan refugees and we cannot take more because we are not in a position to shoulder the burden," said Qureshi, insisting that the worsening security situation in Afghanistan could also trigger another exodus of refugees into Pakistan.
However, the statement by the Interior Minister certainly has raised many eyebrows, who are now questioning the Imran Khan-led government and reminding it of its claims of now allowing terrorists to operate from its soil.