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October 12, 2020

Abdullah Abdullah’s momentous visit

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October 12, 2020

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah recently visited Pakistan, signifying that the two countries were on the threshold of a new era in bilateral relations. The visit also showed Pakistan was looking towards all ethnicities in Afghanistan to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Abdullah said in an interview that he saw promise for good relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and although small steps had been made, they would have a big impact. “We had good discussions, extensive discussions with authorities, civilian and military, and in most of the cases for example on the need for reduction in violence, the need for getting to ceasefire, on the need for showing flexibility … we are on the same page.” He said he was leaving Pakistan with a positive image of the country and that he had no doubt that peace in Afghanistan would lead to peace in Pakistan, and ultimately the region. “As neighbours we have no other choice but to work together" and both sides “address each other’s legitimate concerns and work on the basis of common interest, mutual interest the better it will be,” he was quoted as saying.

Afghanistan's neighbours and the international community have reached a consensus that peaceful settlement of the Afghanistan issue is the only solution for peace in the region. In this regard, major steps were taken in the year 2020.

It should be noted that India is the only country in the world that wants to prolong and scuttle the peace process as it is losing space in Northern Alliance. Understandably, anyone including India who opposes peace and dialogue efforts is not sincere to Afghanistan.

Talking about the peace deal with Taliban that is facing several hurdles, Abdullah said that both parties, the Afghan government and Taliban, decided to initiate talks after nearly three decades of fighting. “Through war, there are no winners and through inclusive peace, there are no losers,” he was quoted as saying: “Personally, I would have preferred it to move in a more speedy manner.” The Afghan leader said that the people were looking forward to results — a decrease in violence and reaching an agreement of ceasefire.

It is a universal truth that regions grow though interconnectivity. In future, regional connectivity between Pakistan and Afghanistan will lead to prosperity of both countries. Pakistan wants Afghans to benefit from economic connectivity through CPEC, which has great potential. As a landlocked, terrorism and militancy prone nation, Afghanistan is in desperate need of infrastructural development and uplifting of its economy. Thus, by joining CPEC, an ideal environment of trilateral cooperation can be developed in the region, which can benefit all parties involved. Afghanistan can particularly gain enormously by not only benefiting from this Chinese investment but also can have an active role of both China and its strategic partner Pakistan in bringing stability and peace in the war-torn country.

CPEC is predicted to bring industrialization and investment to Pakistan, the carry-over effects of which will obviously benefit the neighboring Afghanistan also.

Pakistan is pivot to peace and stability in Afghanistan, as it has suffered the most due to 40 years of active conflict in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, who have fled 40 years of violence in their war-torn country.

Pakistan believes in people-to-people contacts, mutual trade, economic and transit integration with Afghanistan. In this regard, Abdullah appreciated the recently approved visa policy for Afghanistan which he termed a good development on that front.

The new visa policy will make it easy for Afghan citizens to acquire multiple entry visit visas, including those for long-term business, as well as investment and student visas. A new category of health visa also has been enacted to enable Afghan patients to receive visas on arrival at the border. It is expected the new visa and trade-related steps will help expand bilateral economic ties and address concerns often raised by Afghan traders, students and Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan also approved the opening of 12 trade markets near the Afghan border to provide livelihood opportunities to poverty-stricken populations in and around the remote region.

There is a need to reduce the mistrust between both countries. Irritants in bilateral relationship have to be ignored to build a constructive relationship. Abdullah Abdullah's visit was successful on all counts; the rocky road to better bilateral ties must be followed by both countries.