A concise understanding on Pakistan - Afghanistan relations
Pakistan - Afghanistan relations is often branded as an ideal example of bilateral ties. Despite facing a myriad of internal challenges, both countries are moving forward. Pakistan High Commissioner to Bangladesh explains a set of key principles on which the two countries relationship has thrived and where it is lacks a clear understanding.
Daily Observer: What generally is Pakistan's Afghan policy? Can you outline Pakistan's efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan?
H E Imran Ahmed Siddiqui: Pakistan's Afghan policy has three important tracks -
One, support and facilitate intra-Afghan peace process for a negotiated political settlement which is inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive. Two, strengthen bilateral engagement in political and economic fields as well as intensify people to people contacts, and Three, pursue regional connectivity initiatives through Afghanistan to promote mutual prosperity.
We are fully committed to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. Our leadership has consistently stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated political solution is the only way forward. Under this vision, we have worked for a peaceful negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, several challenges notwithstanding.
With Pakistan's support a number of milestones were achieved last year such as conclusion of the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in February 2020, start of inter-Afghan negotiations in September 2020 and agreement on Rules and Procedures in December 2020. At another level, Pakistan remained constructively engaged with international partners to reinforce peace in Afghanistan, inter alia, through Istanbul Process as well as Extended Troika Meetings on Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has also taken a number of initiatives to promote regional connectivity with Afghanistan as an important partner. At the same time, Pakistan maintains across the board engagement with the Afghan groups.
During his visit to Kabul in November 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan had firmly stated that after Afghanistan Pakistan will be the biggest beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan. In fact, we have a direct interest in a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
Daily Observer: At the time of withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, how does Pakistan view the security situation in Afghanistan and what could it do to help stabilize the current volatility?
H E Imran Ahmed Siddiqui: The emerging situation presents new challenges as well as opportunities. Pakistan has consistently maintained that peace in Afghanistan can be achieved through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. Violence and military confrontation will produce more issues including aggravation of the refugee problem.
In the current scenario, the Afghans have a historic opportunity to work for a permanent settlement of their political issues. They have the primary responsibility for resolving their internal political issues. Pakistan like other members of international community will continue to extend all possible support by encouraging all stakeholders to work for a peaceful settlement. However, the Afghan stakeholders will need to make concerted efforts to bring an end to a protracted conflict in their country.
Daily Observer: It has been accused that Pakistan is supporting Afghan factions inside Afghanistan. How would you ensure that the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan remains under effective control after the American withdrawal?
H E Imran Ahmed Siddiqui: Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan. It is evident from our across the board engagement with the Afghan groups.
In order to prevent illegal border movements, Pakistan has fenced most of the border on its side. We provide long term multiple entry visas to thousands of Afghans on daily basis to ensure that movement of people is documented and takes place through legal channels. There are other initiatives too, to upgrade border management in partnership with our brothers across the border.
We also want strict border controls by the Afghan Government to address security concerns. In fact, deeper institutional linkages and intensive bilateral engagements will help deal with mutual concerns.
Pakistan is committed to the objectives of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity. A faithful implementation of the Action Plan by the parties is essential to address several issues which could negatively impact upon bilateral relations in the years ahead.
Daily Observer: In your opinion will the US withdrawal expedite or stymie the situation and peace process inside Afghanistan?
H E Imran Ahmed Siddiqui: Prime Minister Imran Khan has consistently maintained that there is no military solution to the issues in Afghanistan. The solution, in fact, lies in a negotiated political settlement owned and led by the Afghans themselves. We are hoping that withdrawal of foreign troops would coincide with progress in the peace process.
Daily Observer: What is the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and when do you think they will return to their country?
H E Imran Ahmed Siddiqui: Pakistan is currently hosting around 3 million Afghan refugees. The people of Pakistan have extended exemplary hospitality to our Afghan sisters and brothers in the last four decades. We have been calling for the return of the refugees to their homeland with dignity and within a stipulated timeframe. We want peace and security in Afghanistan so that no Afghan has to leave his or her homeland and those in Pakistan are encouraged to return to their country. As I said earlier, after Afghans, there is no other country that is more interested in the long term peaceful settlement and credible security in Afghanistan than Pakistan.