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November 20, 2020

Pakistan steps up Afghan peace efforts

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November 20, 2020

Pakistan steps up Afghan peace efforts

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday had wide-ranging talks with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani to review efforts during the past two years to promote shared objectives of strengthening Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He held talks with the Afghan president during his maiden visit to the neighbouring country on Thursday. The premier paid the day-long visit to Kabul at the invitation of President Ashraf Ghani.

The prime minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. He reiterated his long-standing view that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated political settlement was the only way forward for enduring peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.

Imran Khan called on all sides for taking necessary measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire to protect Afghan lives. Underscoring the importance of an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement, the Prime minister underlined that Pakistan will respect the decisions made by Afghans in the peace process. He also cautioned against those who could spoil the peace efforts.

Director General (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed is also included in the delagation. After the meeting, Imran Khan held a press conference alongside the Ashraf Ghani. Imran Khan said that Pakistan will do its utmost to end violence and establish peace in Afghanistan.

"The people and government of Pakistan have only one concern, and that is to establish peace in Afghanistan because the people of the country have suffered for four decades." He said that even though Pakistan played its role in getting the Taliban to talk to the Americans as well as engage them in the intra-Afghan dialogue, the level of violence has been on a rise in the country after Doha talks which is a matter of grave concern.

Imran Khan assured the Afghanistan government that Pakistan is ready to help the country in every possible way to attain peace. "We will be helping you more than your expectations," he said.

Thanking the Afghan government for inviting him, Imran Khan said that he had been planning to visit Afghanistan for at least the past 50 years. "I am pleased that you have invited me to this historic city of Kabul," the PM said. "We have historical links with your country."

President Ashraf Ghani also stressed that the people of Afghanistan want nothing but peace. "A comprehensive political settlement for enduring peace within the framework of our values and constitution in the Islamic Republic (of Afghanistan) is the way to the future," he said. "All of us need to understand that resorting to violence is not the answer."

President Ghani also said that he would be honoured to visit Pakistan. During the prime minister’s visit, Pakistan and Afghanistan also issued a document titled “Shared Vision between Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Support Peace and Stability in Both Countries and the Wider Region.” The Shared Vision is aimed at advancing a forward-looking cooperative partnership between the two countries for political, economic and people-to-people exchanges.

The two leaders agreed to constitute committees to pursue security and peace-related matters. The prime minister expressed satisfaction at increasing high-level leadership exchanges imparting a steady momentum to bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. In this regard, he appreciated that the recent visit of Advisor on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood to Kabul from 16-18 November led to important breakthroughs for commencement of negotiations on Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), progress in revision of APTTA, Customs Assistance Agreement, and understanding to have memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation between two central banks.

The two leaders also agreed to expedite infrastructure and energy connectivity projects. They also discussed development of new rail-road projects between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The prime minister extended an invitation to President Ashraf Ghani to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.

The Shared Vision document has outlined several steps that both countries propose to take in the coming months, but details of different steps have not been shared. There was realisation that that neither country could achieve lasting peace and stability without peace and stability in the other.

Lasting peace implies peace-making which is wholly inclusive, encompasses the whole nation, and respects a democratic constitutional order in which rights of women and men remain inalienable and protected.

By December 15, 2020, both sides would re-energise joint intelligence services-led work on analysing, mapping and cooperating against enemies of peace and those undermining the peace process. The ‘enemies’ and others have not been identified in the document.

This is a rare opportunity and probably for the first time that Afghan and Pakistan Intelligence agencies will be working side by side, though the document does not identify the enemies of peace and those undermining the peace process.

The document specifically says, “Neither country's territory should be used for malicious purposes against the other's territory, and that both countries should work together to identify and tackle enemies of peace, irreconcilables and those who undermine the peace process.”

By January 01, 2021, both countries would issue a joint proposal to further regional connectivity, in a way which strengthens both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also the wider region.

As the Afghan Peace Process continues with Pakistan playing a lead role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table, the document states, “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will share with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan summary of the key issues that are being discussed during the Afghanistan peace process.”

Both countries will frame joint proposals for Afghan refugees return, elevating and intensifying treatment of this issue, to the point where credible and progressive action can start to be taken.

Both sides agreed to keep this shared vision, its commitments, and previous commitments under regular review, to ensure measurable, clear and irreversible steps towards furthering closer and more productive relations between their two countries.

“Both sides agree that timely progress to meet this vision would require close coordination, a structured dialogue, and willingness to take difficult and courageous decisions’” said the document.

They welcomed the start of Afghanistan peace process in Doha on September 12, 2020 and hoped that the talks will bring lasting peace and tranquillity in Afghanistan. Talks have provided a unique opportunity to Afghans to decide their future without interference. The document seeks expeditious resolution of the refugee situation, i.e. the safe, time-bound and dignified return of refugees, would help the two countries address the humanitarian and socio-economic challenges associated with population displacement. Refugee returns would require resourcing, including donor support from the widest and the most inclusive possible donor community.

Earlier, Imran Khan was accorded a warm welcome upon his arrival at the Presidential Palace on his first official visit to the neighbouring country. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Hanif Atmar in Kabul and discussed bilateral relations, Afghan peace process and regional peace and security situation.