Afghanistan’s peace opportunity not to be undermined by military escalation: Maleeha Lodhi | Pakistan Today

Afghanistan’s peace opportunity not to be undermined by military escalation: Maleeha Lodhi

NEW YORK: Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi speaking during the UN Security Council debate on Afghanistan, stated that the opportunity for peace in Afghanistan should not be undermined by the escalation of military force.

Maleeha Lodhi was referring to the recent offer of unconditional talks with the Taliban by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

For over a decade now, she said, Pakistan has advocated the restoration of peace in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban.

“The international community has also endorsed the goal of a negotiated settlement, promoted through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, as the best, and indeed only, way to realise durable peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan”, she added.

While reiterating Pakistan’s call on the Taliban to renounce violence and agree to join the peace talks, Ambassador Lodhi told the 15-member council that both Afghan parties — the government and the Taliban — should seize the opportunity for peace by entering into a dialogue aimed at ending the prolonged conflict to usher in durable peace in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani envoy said, “After 17 years, both the Afghan government and its coalition allies, as well as the Taliban, should have learnt that neither can impose a military victory on the other,” she remarked.

Commenting on the report of the UN Secretary-General, Ambassador Lodhi said that it paints a bleak picture of the situation in Afghanistan especially of the security environment, which in 2017 witnessed a sixty-seven percent spike in air strikes and increase in terrorist attacks and the highest number of civilian casualties “ever recorded” in Afghanistan.

Moreover, she said, the continuing presence of large numbers of terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan pose a threat to the long-term stability of Afghanistan, its neighbours including Pakistan, and the entire region.

Emphasising the need for effective border control to contain regional terrorism, Ambassador Lodhi said that Pakistan requires close cooperation from the Afghan Government and coalition forces to manage the long border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan, she said, has nearly a thousand border posts but on the other side, there are only 220. “In one stretch of 648 km, there is not a single Afghan border post”, she added.

Ambassador Lodhi told the council that the threat of terrorism in Pakistan today emanated principally from outside its boundaries.

Voicing concern about the rapid growth of Daesh in Afghanistan, Ambassador Lodhi emphasised the need to eliminate the terrorist group and its affiliates on a priority basis in the endeavour to achieve durable peace in the region.

She also recalled what Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa had stated in his remarks to the recent Munich Security Conference: “Of the 131 terrorist attacks on our territory, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan”. This, she said, was happening despite the presence of the most powerful military alliance in Afghanistan.

“We want to see the elimination of the sanctuaries from which these terrorists operate against Pakistan”, she stressed.

In response to remarks made earlier by the Afghan ambassador in the council, she said all parties should refrain from campaigns of vilification and coercion, adding that Pakistan’s cooperation cannot be garnered by pressure and intimidation.

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