Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has reiterated Pakistan’s unshakable resolve to support lasting peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan, besides lending support to the reconstruction and development efforts in the war-torn country.
In his speech at the inaugural session of the Afghan peace conference title “Lahore Process” in Bhurban Murree , he maintained that Pakistan stood for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and remained fully committed to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
The Minister said we are determined to build our bilateral relationship on the principles of non-interference, mutual respect and common interest.
A number of prominent Afghan leadership including Afghan High Peace Council chairman Karim Khalili, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, Ustad Atta Noor and others were attending the conference.
About decades’ long conflict in Afghanistan, the minister said it had brought great sufferings to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He said no one has suffered more than the people of Pakistan due to this persistent instability and conflict.
Linking Pakistan’s security with the instability in Afghanistan, Qureshi said it continued to be deeply influenced by the security situation in Afghanistan.
“Advancing the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan is, therefore, in Pakistan’s own national interest,” he reiterated, adding mutual ties between the two countries were based upon principles of non-interference, mutual respect and common interests.
He further clarified that no one in Pakistan subscribed to any notion of so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan.
“We must not let anyone resurrect this dead horse to advance their propagandist aims or seek to sow the seeds of misunderstanding between us and our Afghan brethren,” he added.
Qureshi said they wanted to see a friendly Afghanistan governed by an elected leadership and representative of the aspirations of all Afghans.
About the previous mistrust between the two neighbours, he said for too long, the vicious circle of mistrust, often fed into by their common enemies, had affected their relationship.
“It is indispensable to move away from this negative paradigm,” he emphasized.
The minister said Pakistan whole-heartedly facilitated the Afghan peace process in good faith and as a shared responsibility and would continue to play its due role in this regard.
He noted that Pakistan’s support was crucial in overcoming the political stalemate ‘that looked impossible to break just a year ago’ and mentioned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s personal commitment to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
He also referred to his visits of Kabul and others undertaken in the regional countries including China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE in an effort to build regional consensus on the ongoing peace process.
About the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, he said the renewed push for peace had created a new opportunity and every effort must be made to seize it.
“We cannot afford to miss this rare opportunity,” he said.
The minister also cautioned against the forces wanted to create misunderstandings and divisions between them.
He observed that it was incumbent upon the leadership of the two countries to take practical steps to build mutual trust and confidence.
“We must not allow our respective territories to be used by anyone to the detriment of our interests,” he stressed.
Qureshi further said that Pakistan was committed to further deepen its engagement with all sections of the Afghan society and their representatives to build on these achievements, as per expectations of the people of Afghanistan.
He also noted with appreciation, the achievements made by the Afghan people despite 18 years' long enormous challenges.
In addition to playing our role in the peace process, he said, Pakistan also remained committed to the Afghan reconstruction and development efforts, post-settlement.
He said Pakistan was ready to help Afghanistan through trade, investment, connectivity and capacity-building of the Afghan people.
Pakistan was also committed to enhancing people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges, he added.
About return of the Afghan refugees, he said they wished to work with Afghanistan and the world community to create conditions for the dignified, safe and voluntary return of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan.
Appreciating the Afghan political leadership, he said the people of Afghanistan were looking towards their leaders including all those present here, with the hope for a better future, a future, that they so earnestly deserved.