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Two-day moot on Afghanistan to be held in Islamabad from July 18

  • Conference to help find peaceful solution to conflict in war-torn country
Published July 16, 2021
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan would host a two-day peace conference on Afghanistan on July 18-19 to bring representatives from cross section of the Afghan political society together, other than the Taliban, in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the war-torn country.

Speaking at his weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri rejected the media reports about postponement of the proposed peace moot, saying that participants from cross section of the Afghan political society would start arriving on July 17 in Islamabad to attend the two-day peace conference.

“Any speculations regarding postponement are entirely baseless. The conference will provide momentum to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that a number of Afghan leaders have already confirmed their participation.

However, he added Taliban are not among the invitees. “They [Taliban] have visited Pakistan many times and we’ve had detailed discussions with them on the Afghan peace process,” he said, adding that the aim of conference is to engage with and consult all sides on the Afghan peace process.

Chaudhri did not mention the names of those invited, however, sources maintained that Afghan special presidential envoy for Pakistan Mohammed Umer Daudzai, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, ex-foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, former Afghan envoy to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal, senior leader of Hazara community Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, former warlord-turned politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Ahmad Wali Massoud, brother of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, are prominent among those who have been invited to the moot.

Responding to a question, the spokesperson said Pakistan has always maintained that peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest and there are multiple reasons for the interest in peace in Afghanistan.

He added that the security situation in Afghanistan has a direct bearing on the security situation in Pakistan and any security vacuum in Afghanistan can be exploited by ‘spoilers.’

“We have shared evidence of Indian use of Afghan soil for state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan,” he said.

He pointed out that Pakistan continues to host over three million Afghan refugees for over four decades.

“We are not in a position to cater to further influx of Afghan refugees, and for that peace and stability in Afghanistan are important,” he further said.

“Economic integration and regional connectivity cannot be achieved without peace and stability in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan is essential for successful implementation of regional connectivity initiatives,” he stated, while sharing the reasons Pakistan wants restoration of peace in Afghanistan.

To another question about Taliban gaining control over Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, he said that a large chunk of Pakistan-Afghanistan trade takes place through the Spin Boldak crossing point. Additionally, he added that the crossing point is used by over 20,000 people on a daily basis.

“The crossing helps sustain many Afghan families. It is therefore important that the border is re-opened as soon as possible,” he added.

About Turkey’s role in Afghan peace process, he said that Pakistan attaches great value to Turkey’s efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan has remained supportive of the Turkish-led initiatives on Afghanistan including the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process.

“We will continue to work with the international community including Turkey in the efforts to seek lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he added.

“As for the specifics of the security in Afghanistan, it’s for the Afghan parties to decide. The imperative of broader consensus in this regard cannot be overemphasised,” the spokesperson asserted.

He pointed out that as the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is nearing completion, Pakistan remains concerned at the evolving security situation in Afghanistan.

“We once again reiterate the imperative of a political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan has played an important role in the Afghan peace process and it remains committed to facilitate the process in future as well. However, ultimately, it is the Afghans themselves who have to decide about their future,” he underscored.

At this critical juncture, he emphasised that all Afghan stakeholders must work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“A meaningful engagement of the world community for promoting reconstruction and economic development in the post-conflict Afghanistan is important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he asserted, adding that Pakistan also believes that peaceful settlement of the Afghan dispute should also lead to a dignified and time-bound return of Afghan refugees.

“This is the time that friends and partners of Afghanistan must remain closely engaged to advance shared goals and objectives,” he further emphasised.

To another query about the killing of Chinese nationals in a bus incident in Kohistan, he said that investigations are underway.

“All aspects of the incident are being examined without ruling out any possibility,” he said, in response to a question about the possibility of the involvement of foreign sponsored terrorism behind the incident.

He said the security of Chinese nationals always remains a key priority for Pakistan.

He added that Pakistan has been a victim of terrorist attacks, which are planned and orchestrated from across “our borders”.

“We have always highlighted India’s active involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan at international fora and also at bilateral levels. The recent blast in Lahore is yet another example of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan,” he added.

“Despite the double standards of those who conveniently judge other countries, Pakistan will continue to expose India’s destabilising role in Pakistan,” he said, adding that a number of cases are already registered in various terrorism incidents in Pakistan with concrete proofs of Indian involvement and we have shared that information with the international community in the past.

To another query about the arrest of the Foreign Office official on charges of spying on CPEC projects, he confirmed the arrest, saying that the concerned official was on deputation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“When the charges against him emerged, he had already been transferred back to his parent department. His trial is underway,” he added.

About the UAE travel restrictions, he said the government has received some new guidelines from the UAE embassy and the concerned officials are in contact with them on the issue.

On the travel to Saudi Arabia, he said the government is fully cognisant of the difficulties being faced by Pakistani citizens due to Covid-19-related travel restriction. About the vaccines, he added that Pakistan has proposed inclusion of some of the Chinese vaccines used in Pakistan and approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) to the list of vaccines approved by the Saudi authorities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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