Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Sunday stressed upon the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues for promoting regional peace and prosperity.
The regional co-operation played an important role in ensuring the political stability, and promoting and deepening mutually beneficial economic interaction, he said during his address at the sixth Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference held in the Indian city of Amritsar.
The Advisor said Pakistan deeply valued the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, as the forum since its formation was making important contribution in the efforts to promote Afghanistan connectivity with the neighbouring and regional countries for durable peace and stability.
“My participation in the event, despite escalation on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary with India, is testimony to Pakistan’s unflinching commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region,” he added.
Sartaj said the Government and the people of Pakistan stood in complete solidarity with the elected government and the people of Afghanistan in furthering the objectives of peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.
He assured Pakistan’s help in achieving the objectives of HoA and stressed upon an objective evaluation of the efforts, made so far by the stakeholders in this regard.
Sartaj Aziz said the security situation in Afghanistan was very complex.
“It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view,” he added.
He observed that the signing of a peace agreement by the Afghan government and Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan and its implementation would serve as model for talks with other insurgent groups in future.
He underlined the need to address through effective and collective efforts the continuing wave of terrorism and violence in Afghanistan which had claimed scores of human lives.
The advisor said the peace talks process between Afghan government and Taliban had not produced positive results.
Pakistan was making serious efforts for facilitating the peace talks through the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group (QCG).
He urged all the members of the QCG to continue their efforts for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.
“In our view, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and all our efforts should be to achieve a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” he added.
Sartaj also regretted the postponement of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) Summit scheduled in Islamabad, by saying that it was a setback to the efforts for promoting regional co-operation and undermined its spirit.
The Advisor, highlighting the significance of regional connectivity, said it could stimulate economic development and cited Pakistan’s efforts in building its national rail, road and energy transmission network to meet the growing regional transport needs.
He said the focus was on the modern state of the art infrastructure through China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
There was immense potential for connecting Pakistan’s transportation and energy infrastructure with Afghanistan and other countries of the West and Central Asia, he added.
He informed the two countries were already part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Co-operation (CAREC), planned transport corridors five and six, adding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also announced Pakistan’s joining of Ashgabat Agreement and the Lapiz Lazuli Corridor. Besides, Pakistan was expediting the energy connectivity projects including Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) with the regional countries.
Sartaj reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to enhancing facilitation for transit of Afghan goods through its territory and emphasised upon joint efforts for improvements in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
Recounting Pakistan’s efforts to host millions of Afghan refugees in the past three decades and their repatriation process, he said it was engaged with Afghanistan and the UNHCR in the ongoing return process to their homeland with honour and dignity.
He informed that they were working to extend refugees’ stay in Pakistan till December 31, 2017 and keep their voluntary return smooth and orderly.
The Advisor also appreciated the progress made by Afghanistan under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
He also noted that Afghan security forces were firmly and bravely facing the extremism.
Sartaj welcomed the hosting of 7th Ministerial Heart of Asia Conference in Azerbaijan next year and said Pakistan had already co-hosted the event in Islamabad last December and would continue to actively participate in the meetings and the process.