Thursday April 25, 2024

Journey to peace

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
September 21, 2018

Every year, International Peace Day is celebrated on September 21 to raise awareness about the importance of peace and the negative impacts of war. The day, which was first celebrated in 1982, is dedicated to world peace, and encourages temporary ceasefires in combat zones to ensure access to humanitarian aid.

According to Sustainable Development Goal 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions – adopted by all UN member states, it is necessary to take solid steps to build a peaceful and inclusive society. On various occasions, I have said that there is a direct link between peace and prosperity. I believe that a peaceful society is one that is based on humanity, justice and equality for all. Peace ensures a sustainable environment for every citizen to take active part in order to achieve national development.

Independent analysts believe that Pakistan’s armed forces have offered huge sacrifices to ensure peace. Recently, I came across a report by a renowned British security think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). According to the report, Pakistan Army is working well under the Bajwa Doctrine to defend our national interest. It added that: “The message from the military is quite clear – US equipment is no longer the only option for Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan is actively buying hardware and producing more with China. As far as US military aid goes, the words of the Pakistani Army’s spokesperson Major-General Asif Ghafoor sums up Pakistan’s perspective, ‘Pakistan never fought for money but for peace’”.

The RUSI report also quoted leading American generals and officers who admitted Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. “It was Pakistan that helped militarily more than any other Nato country. The future, as far as the Pakistan Army is concerned, belongs to them,” the report concluded.

For regional peace and stability, Pakistan must have cordial diplomatic relations with the international community, especially with neighbouring countries like Afghanistan. I believe that a peaceful Afghanistan is in our best interest. Unlike our past regimes, Naya Pakistan – led by Imran Khan – has a vision to defend the case of our beloved country on the international front. That’s why Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was sent to Afghanistan to conduct his first foreign tour. Fortunately, he was warmly welcomed by his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani, who is the son of the late Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, an Afghan leader.

It is a coincidence that the birthday and martyrdom day of Professor Rabbani was also observed yesterday. He was truly a freedom fighter who played a critical role in defending his motherland. After the withdrawal of the Soviet forces, he also served as president of Afghanistan till the Taliban occupied Kabul in 1996. However, the Rabbani government was widely recognised by the international community, including the UN.

After the Taliban government was toppled in response to the 9/11 tragedy, Rabbani once again returned to Kabul and served as president for a short period of time. During the tenure of Hamid Karzai, he also led the Afghanistan National Front, the largest political opposition party.

Professor Rabbani was a strong advocate of peace and unity in Afghanistan. For this purpose, he initiated many steps for reconciliation with various Afghan groups. On the occasion of his 71st birthday on September 20, 2011, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber while presiding a meeting with a Taliban delegate at his house for peace talks. Hamid Karzai, on the Afghan parliament’s suggestion, honoured him with the title of ‘Martyr of Peace’.

Salahuddin Rabbani, his son, is an active part of Ashraf Ghani’s government in Afghanistan. Like his great father, he is also determined to lead peace efforts with the Taliban in Afghanistan. On the occasion of Eidul Fitr, Afghan forces, Taliban fighters and citizens celebrated the historic festival together, which reflects Rabbani’s vision for peace.

Today, on the occasion of International Peace Day, the leadership of both countries must commemorate the vision of Professor Rabbani, who led a successful freedom movement against foreign aggression, served as a political head of state and opposition, and sacrificed his life for the purpose of achieving peace. There are some non-state actors, supported by global players, who are creating hurdles in the journey towards peace. But we need to collectively defeat them. For this purpose, the Afghan leadership has to join hands with Pakistan to define an effective and efficient border management system.

I am quite confident that our most experienced foreign minister, through the active support of his Afghan counterpart, will play a crucial role in ensuring peace and prosperity for the best interest of both neighbouring countries.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani