ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday agreed to resumption of peace reconciliation process with Taliban and also reiterated for devising a common strategy to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
This was announced during a joint press conference by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani at the conclusion of fifth ministerial meeting of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.
Aziz said that there was consensus among the participants of the conference that terrorism and violent extremism constitute a major threat to regional peace and well-co-ordinated efforts were required to eliminate this scourge. He said that the Heart of Asia partners also affirmed their support for the resumption of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process for achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.
To a question, the Adviser said that both sides have decided to send delegations to draw out the modalities, adding an Afghan delegation will soon be visiting Pakistan to discuss and finalise modalities. To another query by an Afghan journalist that whether it was correct that Pakistan is using terrorism as its foreign policy element, Aziz strongly rejected the accusation, saying no country can point finger at Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.
About the emerging threat of Daesh, he said that it was an international problem and the international community has already started making concerted efforts to counter the threat, adding Pakistan is part of such efforts. “We also agreed that Afghan refugees should go back to Afghanistan with dignity and honour. The international community should provide support for smooth resettlement of Afghan refugees in their homeland”, he said.
He further said that the two sides also agreed on devising an effective strategy on border management, as the Pak-Afghan border is not only misused by terrorists but also by drug smugglers. He further said that the conference reaffirmed commitment to six Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) of the Process.
These CBMs facilitate cooperation in disaster management, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade, commercial and investment opportunities, regional infrastructure and education, he added.
He said that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who inaugurated the conference with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, shared with us his vision for peace, security and stability in the region. He said that the conference was attended by the Foreign Ministers and representatives from participating and supporting countries as well as regional and international organisations. “This demonstrates the importance attached to the Heart of Asia Process. This provided us another opportunity to deliberate upon collective efforts for peace, security, and socio-development in Afghanistan and the region”, he added.
He also thanked all participating and supporting countries and regional and international organisations for their support and valuable contribution to take the process forward in 2015 – the year in which Pakistan co-chaired with Afghanistan. He said that the Declaration adopted after consultations throughout the year, provides a road map and a number of concrete measures for stability in the region. “This is essential for creating a conducive environment for the amelioration of our peoples. We agreed that an improved security environment in the region is also essential for expediting the implementation of mega road and rail connectivity projects and regional energy projects like TAPI and CASA-1000,” he added.
In his remarks, Afghan Foreign Minister said the conference has adopted Islamabad Declaration which reflected strong support by the world countries for peace and stability in Afghanistan. He said that effective steps are needed to be taken against terrorism and organised crimes. He said the Afghan government will introduce further reforms for better governance in the country to check crimes and corruption.
He also lauded Pakistan’s role in peace and reconciliation process, adding he was optimistic that Pakistan can play an important role to bring back Afghan Taliban to the dialogue process. He said that Daesh is not only a threat to Afghanistan but to the entire world and the region, adding regional countries need to devise a common strategy against the global terror network.
He also commended the role of India in “stability and development” in Afghanistan, adding it was also encouraging that the next ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul process will be hosted by New Delhi. About the trade with India via Pakistan, Rabbani said the trade with India via Pakistan was as important for Afghanistan as it is important for Pakistan to have trade with central Asian countries via Afghanistan.
To a question, the Afghan Foreign Minister said that he was hopeful that Pakistan will sincerely play its constructive role towards restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan. “I am hopeful because what we have been told during our meetings is that peace in Afghanistan is peace in Pakistan”, he added.
He also declined to comment on the now non-functional MoU signed between ISI and NDS for cooperation, saying it was a security matter and it is better to be asked from security and defence officials. However, he added that cooperation between the two countries in security and defense is also very important. Rabbani also agreed that the blame-game between the two countries should come to an end and issues should be resolved through talks under the established channels.
Source: Business Recorder