Policy making machinery working hard to improve relations with Kabul

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ISLAMABAD, DEC 22 (DNA) – There is certainly a positive trajectory with regards to Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations. In the last few months both sides have achieved significant progress, though there is a lot still to be done. For the first time, the parliaments on both sides are playing a very active role in addressing issues of mutual interest.

Complex issues accumulating over years would take some time for resolution. This was said by Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. He was speaking to the 7th Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Committee (PAJC) meeting, spearheaded by Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Organization for Economic Studies and Peace (OESP).

Trade is and should always be the connecting link between the two nations. It also promotes people to people contacts, along with a lot of economic opportunities for the people, particularly the ones residing in border areas.

We are also looking into investing into each other countries, which reinforces our push for increased trade, paving way for shared stakes and mutual interests. This in turn would materialize into durable peace and sustainable development in the region, stated Sadiq.

He further stated that Islamabad’s seriousness in mending trust deficit and starting a new chapter in the bilateral relationship with Kabul reflects in the number of steps the Government of Pakistan have initiated within last six months.

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These include: introduction of liberal and friendly visa regime for Afghanistan, making it easy for Afghans to do business and open bank accounts inside Pakistan, decision to open 12 border markets with Afghanistan, and pipeline projects like tele-medical centers in Afghanistan and railway link between the countries. Sadiq assured that the progress on bilateral front would pick pace in coming months.

Later in the afternoon, PAJC members called on Dr. Moeed Yusuf, SAPM on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning. He was of the view that Track II process, instead running parallel to Track I, should in fact complement Track I and assist it by providing the government with targeted policy proposals.

He thanked the efforts of CRSS in this regard. He then apprised the Afghan participants that today’s Pakistan is a new Pakistan; a lot has changed over last two decades. We have a new security paradigm now with economic security at its core.

Dr. Yusuf further urged the delegates that to move forward, both sides have to let go of the past. He also mentioned that our region has been misused by global powers for so long. We need to get segregated from these dirty games. On Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace process, He stated that Islamabad, supports Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process. Whatever governance set-up that may emerge post intra-Afghan dialogues, it will have Islamabad’s support. Now the ball is in the court of Afghans and they should take the steering wheel from now on, he added.

PAJC members expressed hope over the recent positive developments between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan delegates appreciated Islamabad’s encouraging moves over the past few months. They also asked Pakistan to play more assertive role in Afghan peace process, in particular ensuring it to be inclusive, not margining youth and women.

There was a unanimous consensus that trade should be the key to boost the bilateral relations in coming months. Pakistani delegates highlighted the need for positive narratives from media, especially the Afghan media. They also stressed on more exchanges between the youth and artists of the both nations, to promote soft diplomacy.

Afghan delegation included Shinkai Karokhail, Gul Ahmad Kamin, Fatima Kohistani, Gulalai Mohammadi, Farzana Kochai, Members of Parliament; Palwasha Hassan, Women Right Activist; Momina Yari, Social Activist and Former Commissioner; Mozammil Shinwari, Former Deputy Minister; Khan Jan Alokozai, Former Governor; Waris Hasrat, Senior Journalist; Aziz Ullah Amin, Political Analyst; Mari Akrami, Human Rights Activist, Mirwais Wardak Political Analyst/ Researcher and Naqeeb Ullah Safi, Executive Director PAJCCI.

While the Pakistani side was represented by Mehnaz Akber Aziz, Member National Assembly; Dr. Shoiab Suddle, Former IG Police; Lt. Gen. (retd) Asif Yasin Malik, Former Defense Secretary; Seema Ilahi Baloch, Mian Sanaullah, Tasnim Aslam, Qazi Humayun, Asif Durrani and Ayaz Wazir, former Ambassadors; Haroon Sharif, former Minister of State and former Chairman Board of Investment (BOI) Pakistan; Nasim Zehra, Tahir Khan, Rehman Azhar and Hasan Khan, Senior Journalists; Ammara Durrani, Public Policy and Human Security Expert; Ahmed Siddiqi, Pak-Afghan Research Fellow and Policy Expert.=DNA

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