ISLAMABAD: Regional security, trade and transit and the international community’s concerns were the key issues discussed between Minister of State Foreign Affairs Ms Hina Rabbani Khar and the Interim Afghan Government during her one-day trip to Kabul on Tuesday.
Pakistan also made an important policy announcement when it reached out to Afghan women businesswomen and assured them that Pakistan would give special preference to the import of products produced by businesses run by Afghan women.
Pakistan says that the visit of the Minister of State was a manifestation of the high importance Pakistan attaches to its longstanding fraternal relationship with Afghanistan.
“The two sides discussed matters related to enhanced regional security with mutual cooperation, including in countering terrorism, and issues and policies which would impact the interim government’s engagement with the international community,” said the Foreign Office in a statement after the minister’s return. Ms Khar once again in her meetings stressed that the unfreezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets would contribute to relief for Afghanistan in the challenges it faced.
In Kabul, the Minister of State held meetings with Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi, Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, Minister for Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Dilawar and Commerce Minister of the Afghan Interim Government, Haji Nooruddin Azizi.
On her arrival accompanied by Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, Special Representative on Afghanistan and Spokeswoman Ms Mumtaz Zahra, the delegation was received at the airport by Deputy Minister for Economy, Abdul Latif Nazari and Head of Mission Ubaud-ur-Rahman Nizamani. The visit by Ms Khar took on added significance as it came immediately after an announcement by the terrorist group TTP that it had ended the ceasefire and would now attack Pakistan from its safe sanctuary inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan and the international community have time and again called upon the Interim Taliban government to abide by the promises that it had made when it came to Kabul. This included besides other assurances, an inclusive government, not allowing the soil of Afghanistan to be used by terrorists, respect for human rights, respect for women and minorities and allowing education for girls. “The Minister of State underscored the imperatives for the international community to practically engage with the Interim Afghan Government to help Afghanistan address the dire humanitarian situation and the challenges of reconstruction and socio-economic development,” said the Foreign Office.
During these meetings, a range of bilateral issues of common interest including cooperation in education, health, agriculture, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people-to-people contacts and socioeconomic projects were discussed. “In her engagements, the Minister of State reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to peaceful, stable, prosperous and connected Afghanistan. She reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to further deepen and strengthen multifaceted ties between the two countries and build an enduring partnership for shared prosperity,” the FO added.
Recalling the immutable bonds of geography, history, culture and language, the two sides agreed on the significance of sustained bilateral political dialogue and the vital role of institutional mechanisms to advance the myriad tracks of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. “The two sides also emphasized the importance of Afghanistan as a land bridge between Central Asia and South Asia and its pivotal role in promoting regional connectivity including through transportation links and mega energy projects such as TAPI and CASA-1000,” said the statement. An all-women meeting was held over luncheon with representatives of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Khar “emphasized the important role of women in Afghan society and expressed Pakistan’s keen desire to strengthen linkages between women entrepreneurs of Pakistan and Afghanistan.” She announced that Pakistan would give special preference to the import of products produced by businesses run by Afghan women.
There was no word from the Pakistan side to an open letter written by a leading women’s group which asked Ms Khar to support Afghan women. “You serve as an example of the status of women in our neighbouring country. We call on you to use your visit not only as a minister but as a woman and as a Muslim woman leader to support the women of Afghanistan and strengthen our solidarity,” said the Afghan Women’s Network representing several activist groups.
The leading Afghan women group urged Khar not to forget their plight. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan said Friday that Taliban restrictions on women and girls could amount to a “crime against humanity”.
“You serve as an example of the status of women in our neighbouring country,” the Afghan Women’s Network, representing several activist groups, said in an open letter to Khar.
“We call on you to use your visit not only as minister but as a woman and as a Muslim woman leader to support the women of Afghanistan and strengthen our solidarity.”