ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday called for trust to be rebuilt between Islamabad and Kabul as Pakistan began a new initiative to bolster a faltering peace process aiming to end Afghanistan’s lengthy civil war, a British wire agency reported.Pakistan on Saturday hosted a conference to bring together more than 50 Afghan leaders, including politicians and tribal elders, but there were no representatives of the Afghan Taliban militants, who have been fighting for years to expel foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government in Kabul. The United States has been pushing Pakistan to use its influence with the Taliban to open direct negotiations with the Kabul government, which the Taliban regard as an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime.
Qureshi said Islamabad wants a negotiated peace settlement among all sides as he said Pakistan continues to suffer security problems due to instability in Afghanistan.
“For far too long, the vicious circle of mistrust, often fed into by our common enemies, has affected our relationship. The blame-game has not helped either of us,” Qureshi said, according to his speech notes released by the Foreign Ministry.
“It is indispensable to move away from this negative paradigm. It is incumbent upon the leadership of the two countries to take practical steps to build mutual trust and confidence.”
Among the delegates was former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who earlier this year announced plans to contest the delayed presidential elections. Senators and members of Afghanistan’s parliament were also there, according to a English-language newspaper.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is due to visit Pakistan next week, where he is expected to meet top civilian and military leaders in talks set to focus on the Afghanistan peace process.
China on Thursday said that it had recently played host to a Taliban delegation as part of efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, various political and politico-religious stalwarts from Afghanistan acknowledging the prevalence of peace mandatory for ultimate survival on Saturday pledged to give peace a chance in their war-torn country.
Speaking at a conference “Peace in Afghanistan” held under the aegis of Lahore Centre for Peace and Research (LCPR), Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmed Wali, brother of late leader of Northren Alliance Ahmed Shah Mehsud, Hizbe Islami leader Wahidullah Sabhun, Hanif Atmar, leader of Hizbe Wahdat Mardam Afghanistan Ustad Muhmmad Muhaqiq, former Afghan governor and Secretary General of Jamat Islami Ustad Atta Muhammad Noor, Chief of Afghan Jirga Muhammad Karim Khalili, Allama Saeed Hashmi, Madam Fauzia Kufi, and leader of Jumbish-e-Islami Maulvi Nabi Ayubi were of the opinion that reconciliation was the only option to come over the feuds.
Rejecting the scourge of terrorism, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said, “We want peace at all costs in Afghanistan. “ However, he said various factions in the political arena of the country had a number of feuds, which had been putting hurdle in the way to achieve lasting peace. Highlighting the importance of unity, he said all the differences could be overcome through forging unity among the ranks. He urged the Afghan government to accept the genuine demands of Taliban, who, according to him, were a force and a reality in the country. He said the fight with Taliban had caused immense losses to the country and it was high time that the process of reconciliation be set in to achieve peace.
Wahidullah Sabhun acknowledged the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism, and said both the countries had suffered a lot and whichever group, party or country offered to help overcome the problems would be welcomed. He lauded Pakistan’s efforts to help forge peace in the region.
Hanif Atmar said Pakistan and Afghanistan should hold talks at the state level to deal with the scourge of terrorism as the challenge could not be dealt with single handedly. He appreciated Pakistan for accepting the sovereignty and integrity of Afghanistan as an independent state. He said they were ready to hold dialogue with the Taliban, but made it clear that they would never sit on the table with, what he called, international terrorists.
Ustad Muhammad Mohaqiq thanked Pakistan for extending every support to the people of Afghanistan during their trying times like a real brotherly nation. He said the time had proved that world could not live without achieving peace, thus efforts in that direction were need of the hour. He pointed out that Iran might also be taken on board in efforts to achieve lasting peace.
Ustad Ata Muhammad Noor expressed concerns over the presence of international terrorists on the Afghan soil and urged Pakistan and Iran to take stock of the situation. He pointed out that the Taliban had yet to take lenient view point on various issues to reach some substantive conclusion. He advocated that both Pakistan and Afghanistan should enhance cooperation in the field of education, besides research and development.
Muhammad Kareem Khalili said the entire Afghan nation strongly believed in achieving lasting peace which ultimately would help usher not only Afghanistan but the entire region in economic prosperity and well-being. He thanked the people and the government of Pakistan for hosting the Afghan refugees for over four decades and acknowledged the efforts of Pakistan, China, the United States, and Russia for making untiring efforts to help achieve peace.
Afghan leader Allama Saeed Hashmi said the Afghan peace process was a good omen and leaders of both the countries should interact and discuss issues, and resolve them on priority basis.
Fauzia Kufi said a new leadership was at the helm in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and both the countries needed to move on now. She said there was now a new Afghanistan and with the advent of technology, the Afghan nation had changed too. Maulvi Nabi Ayubi said the Jumbish-e-Islami wanted peace returning to Afghanistan and it would support all efforts for the purpose.
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