PESHAWAR: Afghan Consul General Professor Mohammad Moeen Marastial has urged the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to sit and discuss water issues between the two countries to resolve them in line with the international laws.
"I would rather go a step forward and demand more deliberations and conferences besides talks at government level over the border disputes, refugees' issue and trade," he said while speaking at a conference on "Sustainable Usage of River Kabul: Prospects and Challenges for Pak Afghan Cooperation."
The conference was arranged by the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, on Wednesday. University of Peshawar's Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mohammad Asif, former Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Azmat Hayat Khan, Prof Dr Amir Nawaz Khan and a number of other speakers also spoke on the occasion.
The Afghan consul general said that the water disputes are there in all parts of the world. "In South Asia too, water is a big issue. Afghanistan, however, has managed to resolve water disputes with its neighbours. The dispute between Afghanistan and Russia over River Amu before the Russian invasion was resolved during the rule of King Zahir Shah," he recalled.
He said Afghanistan and Iran had concluded a treaty on sharing the waters of River Helmand. "Now the Iranian government has raised the issue again, but it would hopefully be resolved soon," he maintained.
With Pakistan, he said, bilateral talks were held on issues pertaining to the flowing waters. "Also, the UN laws are there. If there is any problem of waters between the two countries, they should sit together and resolve them in line with those talks and international laws," he suggested.
He also stressed the need for arranging more conferences on different issues between the two countries. Experts and scholars from Afghanistan should also be invited to these conferences, he said.
He urged talks on trade between the two countries. "Both the countries should think as to why the trade volume between them has declined and how could it be improved once again," he added.
Later, in response to a question about Afghanistan's plan to construct dams over river Kabul, the Afghan diplomat said that his country would not want to dry up the waters flowing into Pakistan. "Both the countries should sit together and resolve such problems, if any, in accordance with international laws," he added.
He welcomed the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as US State Department's special envoy for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said Afghanistan and Pakistan should promote mutual trust, which would contribute to making the efforts for peace and reconciliation fruitful.
To another question about the new PTI government in Pakistan, he said this government has resolved to work for peace in Afghanistan. He expressed the hope that practical steps would be taken in this regard.
In his inaugural speech, the Director Area Study Centre, Prof Dr Shabbir Ahmed explained the importance of the issues and challenges related to the mismanagement of riverKabul. He also emphasised the need for having a bilateral water treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan for reasonable and equitable use of waters of river Kabul.
Vice Chancellor, University of Peshawar, Prof Dr Mohammad Asif Khan, who was the chief guest, also highlighted the importance of the issue and appreciated the initiative taken by Area Study Centre by holding the conference.
The first working session was chaired by former Director of Area Study Centre, Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan. Prof Dr Nafees talked about the impact of pollution in river Kabul on human population, agriculture, fisheries and migrating birds. Prof Dr Attaur Rahman spoke on the climate change and floods in the region. Prof Dr Amir Nawar stressed the importance of river Kabul for the inhabitants of KP in particular and Pakistan in general.
Prof. Moeen Marastial chaired the second session. Dr. Visal Shah talked about the trans-border water disputes and the importance of Pak-Afghan water treaty. Dr. Jehangir Shah's research paper focused on cleansing, restoration and rehabilitation of river Kabul. Dr. Ali Mohammad Yousafzai presented his paper on the ecology of river Kabul. Suleman Yousaf highlighted prospects and challenges in Pak-Afghan cooperation regarding river Kabul and stressed the need for joint mechanism for sustainable usage of shared water of the river.