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Pakistan and Afghanistan

Volume 540: debated on Monday 20 February 2012

Pakistan is an important player in the regional politics and will play an important role in Afghanistan’s future, so Pakistan’s involvement is routinely discussed during regular talks on regional issues with my NATO counterparts, most recently at the NATO Brussels summit that took place on 2 and 3 February. Lasting stability and security in Afghanistan is, I believe, in Pakistan’s interests. We continue to encourage Pakistan to support the Afghan-led reconciliation process fully, recognising that progress could help pay a peace dividend on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the history of the Pakistani intelligence services’ role in the emergence of the Taliban. Is he as concerned as I am about recent reports that the Pakistani intelligence services continue to operate inside Afghanistan? Does that have implications for Afghanistan after NATO leaves the country?

The hon. Gentleman underlines the fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably linked, largely by the big overlap of the Pashtun population in the border areas. We should never forget, as well, that Pakistan has suffered more from terrorism than any other country, with more than 30,000 Pakistanis having lost their lives to acts of terrorism over the past decade. We continue to look carefully at how Pakistan’s security forces and others interact with their Afghan counterparts, and we continue to encourage Pakistan to play a positive and dynamic role in stabilising the area.

The Secretary of State will be only too aware of the febrile relationship at the moment between the United States of America and Pakistan—apparent allies. What concerns does he have and what can be done about the safety of Pakistani nuclear sites, which are so close to the Afghan border?

Obviously, the safety of Pakistani nuclear missile and nuclear weapon sites is of the utmost importance, not only for regional stability but for counter-terrorist efforts across the world. The Pakistan military regard that as a very high priority, and all the information that I have seen suggests a very high level of security and security assurance around Pakistani nuclear sites.