In a political tug-of-war like that in vogue in Pakistan, one may concede if Prime Minister Imran Khan resorts to name-calling opposition leaders or choosing adjectives to discredit them. But when he speaks about American and other foreign leaders, he must google the meaning of his every word. “Ignorant,” “absolutely clueless” and “in a state of shock” were the abuses Khan hurled when he was questioned in a CNN interview about US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week. Slip of tongue does happen in an extempore discussion. But other statements emanating from his subordinates endorse it as Imran Khan’s sustained policy following the refusal of the US president to make a phone call to him at the height of Washington-Islamabad coolness amidst the last phase-withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. International relations are not governed that way. The approach of Imran Khan’s government towards the US and the international community appears more aggressive on the issue of recognition of the Taliban government in Kabul. Pakistan does have legitimate stakes and genuine concerns in Afghanistan as chaos there has always exacerbated its security situation. But then, similar stakes are also shared by other countries surrounding Afghanistan. No country pursued the issue of freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the US as antagonistically as did Pakistan. If leaders of those countries do not annoy anyone for the sake of a neighbour, why does Islamabad? Pakistan took the cause of Taliban’s legitimacy upon itself so fervently that the Taliban leaders themselves had to tell it not to speak on Afghanistan’s behalf abroad. Despite that, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi shuttled around the regional capitals desperately trying to wash the past mistakes of the extremist group. National Security Advisor Moid Yousuf was rather harsher when he “denounced” the “wait and watch” policy of the West on recognising the Taliban, describing it as a flawed strategy. “West made the same mistake in 1990s, which led to economic collapse, civil war and economic and international terrorism,” he said at a press conference in Islamabad. In his CNN interview, Imran Khan sounded more vocal against the US, saying it was a “fallacy” to think that Afghanistan could be controlled from outside. He despicably downplayed as a mistake “to think that someone from outside will give rights to Afghan women.” During the latest discourse between the US and Taliban, Qatar was more under obligation to seat the Taliban on the throne of Kabul because while Islamabad was totally kept aside from the process, Doha was the host of the group and played a mediator’s role in the intra-Afghan dialogue. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman did visit the regional countries, including Pakistan, Russia and the Central Asian states, but all he insisted on in his interactions was humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people while speaking of an inclusive government and observance of human and women rights. Ours was a totally different story. “Afghan women are strong. You cannot impose women’s rights from abroad,” Khan rudely uttered when CNN anchor, Becky Anderson, posed a question about women’s rights in Afghanistan. Since the fall of Kabul in mid-August, Russia and China have been actively pursuing their interests in Afghanistan but none has put all their eggs in the Taliban’s crate. Both are equally expressive in their tone and tenor on the issues of an inclusive government in Kabul and respecting the rights of women and minorities. In his virtual address at the SCO Council of Heads of State meeting in Dushanbe, Russian President Vladimir Putin did urge the US to release Afghanistan’s assets but qualified his call by asserting that without funds, “Taliban would be tempted to drug and arms trade,” with neighbouring countries. While Uzbekistan is pursuing a tepid policy towards the Taliban, Iran and Tajikistan are categorically in opposition to the Taliban when it comes to concerns of the Tajik and Shiite minorities of Afghanistan. Iran even took exception to Pakistan’s closeness with the Taliban and announced to “investigate” when accusations were made that Pakistani drones had targeted anti-Taliban forces in Panjsher Valley. No country pursued the issue of freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the US as antagonistically as did Pakistan. Washington resorted to the step when the Taliban gave clear signs that they do not have any respect for the commitments they had made before ascending the throne of Kabul. One pretext for the Americans to freeze the $9 billion assets of Afghanistan might be the claim that 80 per cent of Afghanistan’s annual budget was based on foreign aid provided by the US and other Western countries. Secondly, when the Taliban refused to share power with other Afghan political, Islamist and ethnic groups, the Western countries – as well as the international organisations – preferred to freeze these assets till the formation of a broad-based inclusive government in Kabul. It is not beyond the possibility that Afghan politicians might have themselves suggested freezing the country’s assets. After all, no demand for the release of these funds has since come from any quarter in Afghanistan, except the Taliban. If Pakistan is the only country, which is forcefully justifying the Taliban’s inheritance of the combined assets of the Afghan people or warning the world of the perils of not recognising the Taliban regime, one is left with no ground to reject the allegation that Pakistan is still pursuing the policy of Strategic Depth. The writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.