Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Thursday reiterated that Pakistan’s resolve that Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process could prove to be the best solution to establish long-term peace in Afghanistan.
Addressing the panel discussion `From Winter to Spring: Revisiting the Afghan question’ held by Jinnah Institute, the Adviser said it would be imprudent to attach arbitrary timelines, deadlines or conditionalities to the reconciliation process as it was aimed at addressing the complicated issues.
Senator Sherry Rehman chaired the panel discussion attended by diplomats, politicians, media men and researchers.
He emphasized that Pakistan continued to play a consultative role in Afghan reconciliation process under the principle of shared responsibility. He said the focus of regional stakeholders should be on facilitating an inclusive reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
He said the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) would have to collectively decide how to deal with elements refusing to join the peace process.
He observed that in the past 15 years, an exclusively military approach has not worked in Afghanistan.
“It was important, therefore, to keep the process on track and prevent attempts by spoilers to derail the process,” he said and added that the schedule of next QCG meeting has not yet been finalized.
The adviser said that Pakistan felt the pain of Afghans caused by continuing violence in their country.
Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan itself had been a victim of brutal terrorism, with attacks in Charsadda and Lahore as recent examples.
“Pakistan is, therefore, committed to the idea that one of the key goals of the Afghan reconciliation process be reduction, and ultimate cessation, of violence,” Sartaj Aziz said. Both governments are working on SOPs for better border management to prevent movement of militants across both sides, he added.
Senator Sherry Rehman appreciated President Ashraf Ghani’s role as an advocate of regional stability and change. She added that it was important to strive for an inclusive, Afghan-led peace process as a negotiated settlement was in the best interest of Afghanistan as well as regional players.
Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, was of the opinion that it was important to build an environment of trust given that the main hurdle to peace in the region was the Afghan-Pakistan trust deficit.
Taking note of the nature of shared challenges facing both countries, he agreed that it was important for both sides to talk to each other, and not at each other.
He said without peace in Afghanistan, there could be no peace in Pakistan. He acknowledged that Pakistan too had paid a high price for regional conflict and estimated that Pakistan lost $70-80 billion annually due to instability in Afghanistan and the region.
He added that Pakistan would always face roadblocks in its attempt to become a gateway to Central Asia, as would Afghanistan in its attempt to be a land-bridge to Central Asia, if peace continued to elude Afghanistan.
In his recommendations, the Afghan envoy said it was important to leverage the people-to-people relationship for greater peace and stability given our common ancestry, faith, language and geography.