–Foreign Minister Qureshi says Kabul visit ’very advantageous’, ‘clouds of fear have faded away’
–Sources say visit not successful as both countries failed to make breakthrough on several issues
–Afghan President Ghani to visit Islamabad next month
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is ready to play a constructive role in facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani on his first official visit to Kabul.
The foreign minister was heading a high-level delegation during his day-long visit to war-torn Kabul wherein he called on President Ghani and Afghanistan Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah besides holding delegation-level talks with his Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani.
Speaking after the visit, FM Qureshi told journalists that his visit to Kabul was “very advantageous” and the “clouds of fear have faded away.”
Upon his arrival at the Presidential Palace, Qureshi was received by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani prior to his meeting with the Afghan president. The latter noted that establishing peace was as important for Pakistan as Afghanistan.
“Our challenges are similar and we have to deal with them through mutual cooperation,” Qureshi said.
The Pakistani foreign minister further stated that there was a persistent need to focus on the working group in Afghanistan to move forward.
The foreign minister, during his engagements with the Afghan leadership, said that the new government considered its relations with Afghanistan “important” and would work towards further deepening cooperation in the fields of trade development and connectivity.
In the context of enhancing trade between the two countries, Pakistan had decided to waive off regulatory duty on imports from Afghanistan. As a result, Afghan exports to Pakistan have recorded a substantial increase of 118 per cent in 2018.
Qureshi underscored the importance of cooperation and coordination between the two countries in the areas of counterterrorism and security and offered to train Afghan police and law enforcement agencies in Pakistani institutions.
Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) provided most useful platform to deliver the objectives, he added.
The foreign minister underlined the importance of frequent high-level engagements between the two countries that have contributed in building trust and improving mutual understanding and emphasised to maintain this upward trajectory in bilateral relations through more high-level visits during the upcoming months.
He stated that Pakistan will fast-track steps, including standardisation and automation of custom procedures, up-gradation of infrastructure at crossing points between the two countries.
For the second phase of 3,000 scholarships, more than 620 scholarships have already been granted and Afghan students would start their semester next fall. The foreign minister handed over a letter from the prime minister addressed to the president marking the first consignment of 40,000 tonnes of wheat gifted to the Afghan people.
Though the Kabul visit is being deemed successful, but sources privy to the development disagree. They said President Ghani was not in a position to agree to any of the proposals as his government was paralysed by the opposition.
Moreover, both governments failed to reach any breakthrough with regard to the formation of working groups, a total of 5, after the intervention of China. After Afghanistan had shown reluctance to join the groups, Pakistan proposed government-to-government contact on three groups, including refugees, military and intelligence, but Qureshi’s visit failed to accomplish anything in this regard as well.
Also, the issue of Pakistan’s consulate in Jalalabad remained unsolved as both parties failed to reach any agreement in this regard.
During the talks, Afghan peace process also remained a distant dream as Taliban have refused to hold talks with Ghani’s government.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Afghan affairs expert Kazim Ali Gulzari said that the visit was symbolic by all means as Dr Ghani was no more in a position to deliver goods either to Pakistan or any other regional country.
“Dr Ghani’s legitimacy is already under question as Afghan Taliban have refused to talk to him claiming that Dr Ghani is not a legitimate president. Taliban, instead, have asked for direct talks with the US,” he added.
Gulzari further said that Dr Ghani stands further weakened after most of his comrades, including his first vice president, have joined the Grand National Coalition (GNC) – an alliance of 28 opposition parties including former President Hamid Karzai.
“The Grand National Coalition demanded the registration of the voters using biometrics system while monitoring of the elections process is also among the key demands of the political parties, and if there demands are not met, they will resist any bid to hold general elections. Today, GNC already closed three IEC offices in Balkh, Helmand and Kandahar,” he said, adding that a falling regime in Kabul can deliver nothing to Pakistan.