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QCG makingefforts to ensure peace in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has said that Quadrilateral Coordinating Group (QCG) is making sincere efforts to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Addressing the opening ceremony of fifth round of dialogue on Afghanistan in Islamabad on Friday, he said the joint efforts of the group are vital for establishing peace in Afghanistan.

The Adviser said Pakistan has played a vital role in holding a meeting of the group in Murree last year and dispelled the impression of some countries that Pakistan is controlling the Afghan Taliban.

He said no positive response was received from Afghan Taliban despite best efforts of Pakistan.

“Taliban have not yet responded positively to these efforts but we believe that QCG countries in line with their shared responsibility should continue efforts for peace talks.”

He said the dream of regional connectivity is impossible without establishing peace in Afghanistan.

He said the fifteen years military operation in Afghanistan has produce no substantial results and a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan.

Sartaj Aziz said strongly condemned the recent terrorist attack in Afghanistan and called for an effective border security system.

He made it clear that Afghan refugees will be voluntarily repatriated to their homeland.

Sartaj Aziz presented some of the challenges Pakistan is facing in its quest for peace and stability in Afghanistan:

•    We believe that there is a need for a more unified and coherent messaging from Kabul in favour of peace and reconciliation with Taliban.

•    Prolonged political instability in Afghanistan had created a fertile ground for foreign meddling after 9/11. Many different militant groups have become increasingly dominant in the security landscape with growing insurgency in different parts of Afghanistan.

•    The announcement of the death of Mullah Omar in July 2015 not only scuttled the Afghan peace process, it also led to the splintering of the Taliban.

•    Negative statements about Pakistan emanating from Afghanistan tend to impede the constructive bilateral engagement. Pakistan as a policy has continued to show restraint in responding to such negative remarks.

•    Vested interests have often tried to create a perception that Pakistan actually controls the Taliban. Such an impression breeds unrealistic expectations from Pakistan. The mistrust between the two countries has also affected on the efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

•    The return of Afghan refugees is also a major challenge in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. Over three million Afghan refugees are present in Pakistan. Besides being a continuing economic burden, refugee camps have also become a security concern as they provide sanctuary to terrorists and insurgents. We have a tripartite agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR, which is constantly reviewed. Pakistan is faithfully implementing this agreement.

•    Long porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is frequently used by miscreants including terrorists, militants, human and drug traffickers and criminals. For effective counter terrorism, border controls to regulate the movements across the border is vital. We look forward to positive response from the Afghan government to our proposals for effective border management.

For the way forward, he highlighted the following:

•    Without reconciliation, peace cannot return to Afghanistan. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) is an appropriate forum to pave the way for the Afghan peace process. The immediate goal is cessation of violence. The QCG can play a key role in achieving this goal. However, the process leading to that goal needs patience and time.

•    There is a need for wide ranging discussion between Pakistan and Afghanistan at all levels, government, intelligentsia, civil society and media. This would help to restore trust and strengthen bilateral relations. We are ready to engage.

•    Robust institutional interaction at political, military-to-military and intelligence level are needed to put the relationship on an even keel and restore trust and confidence.

•    Regional cooperation through infrastructure and energy connectivity will also help realize the goal of shared prosperity of both the countries. To this end, infrastructure, communications, road and rail links are essential. We believe that the dream of an inter-connected and economically integrated region cannot be realized without a peaceful Afghanistan. – APP