–Both countries to upscale intelligence cooperation, take joint actions to ‘identify and tackle enemies of peace’
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Thursday agreed to work together for sustainable and durable peace and not to allow their enemies to destabilise each other’s territory using their respective soil.
More significantly, both the countries also agreed to a document titled ‘A shared Vision’. Per the document, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed on a timeline for tangible and strategic actions to take the joint actions to the next level, including intelligence sharing and joint intelligence operations against what it called the ‘anti-peace elements’, and further enhancing the regional connectivity of trade and communication.
An official in Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Pakistan Today that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who was accompanying the Prime Minister, played a key role in bringing the two countries to sign the consensus document.
Some of the core elements of the shared vision that officials agreed for Afghanistan and Pakistan include:
- That Afghanistan and Pakistan should enjoy a “special relationship” founded on predictability, transparency, mutual and full respect for one another’s sovereignty, and on expanding and furthering their mutual interests through state-to-state mechanisms.
- That Afghanistan’s posture of “multi-alignment” with other countries, pursuing a number of friendly relationships, “presents a real opportunity for the two countries to exploit and conversely presents no threat”.
- That neither country’s territory should be used for “malicious purposes” against the other’s territory, and that both countries should work together to “identify and tackle enemies of peace”.
- That regional connectivity should be broadened and deepened, with an emphasis on trade, free movement of people, goods and services, opening of trade and customs posts, and transport and energy infrastructure development, aiming for regional development dividends greater than what each country might expect to achieve alone
- That a safe, time-bound and dignified return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan would help the two countries address the humanitarian and socio-economic challenges associated with population displacement.
PM VOWS TO HELP IN REDUCING VIOLENCE:
During his day-long maiden visit to the neighbouring country, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to do whatever he can to ‘help reduce violence’ in the war-torn Afghanistan.
The visit comes at a crucial juncture as intra-Afghan talks which began in September made little headway amid continued violence in the war-torn country, making Islamabad-brokered peace dialogue between the Taliban and the United States to end the 19-year-old war further complicated.
Addressing a joint press stakeout alongside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani here at the Presidential Palace, Prime Minister Imran said: “The whole idea of [my] coming at a time when violence is increasing in Afghanistan is to assure you that we, the people and the Government of Pakistan, have only one concern: that we want peace.”
“We feel the people of Afghanistan have suffered for four decades, and if ever a human community needed peace, it is Afghanistan,” he added.
PM Imran landed in Kabul Thursday morning accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, ISI DG Lieutenant General Hameed, Adviser on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and other senior officials.
Upon the arrival, the premier was received by Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Ghani’s Special Representative for Pakistan Mohammad Umer Daudzai. Later, the prime minister was presented with a guard of honour at the palace.
During his presser, PM Imran observed despite the role Pakistan has played in getting the Taliban to speak with Americans and facilitating intra-Afghan talks, the level of violence has inflated in Afghanistan.
Assuring the Afghan leadership that Pakistan will play its part in helping reduce violence in the country, saying: “If you feel there is somewhere Pakistan can help [in reducing violence], please let us know”.
“We assure you that we will do whatever is within our reach,” he said. He stated that one of the reasons Islamabad was pushing for peace in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan’s tribal areas which were devastated by the ‘war on terror’. “The only way to help people on both sides of the border is by peace, trade and connectivity,” he said and added that trade and connectivity between the two countries will increase in days to come.
He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoy historic links and brotherly relations and recalled that during the era of 70s, Kabul and Peshawar were favourite destinations for the visitors from both sides.
Speaking on the occasion, the Afghan president said that he had a very productive engagement with PM Imran. He said, “A comprehensive political settlement for enduring peace within the framework of our values and our constitution is the future of Afghanistan.” He added that violence is not the answer to any conflict.
Ghani said, “We can move forward and a comprehensive ceasefire can be achieved.”
Reacting to the rising trend of Islamophobia in some European countries, the Afghan president said, “Respect for our Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is in the blood and mind of every Muslim. Respect for our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is respect for the entire Muslim world.”
He said that there is a need to differentiate between positive and negative freedom of expression.
Earlier, the PM Imran and Afghan President Ghani held a meeting and discussed ways to strengthen ties between their countries. The meeting focused on further deepening the fraternal relations between the two countries, the Afghan peace process, and regional economic development and connectivity.
The two sides discussed the prospects of resumption of peace in Afghanistan following the Doha peace agreement inked between the United States and Taliban.
The move has been seen as an effort to build on sustained engagement between the two countries in recent months for enhancing bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
The last time PM Imran and Ghani had met in person was when the latter visited Pakistan in June 2019. Before that, they had met on the side-lines of the 14th OIC Summit in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in May 2019.
The visit is part of regular high-level exchanges between two countries and comes a year after Ghani visited Pakistan on PM Imran’s invitation.
Per a Foreign Office statement, the prime minister’s schedule included a meeting with the Afghan president, delegation-level talks between the countries followed by a joint press statement.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gran Hewad had announced the visit last week, claiming it would focus on the ongoing Afghan peace process, as well as efforts to strengthen political, security, trade, and economic ties.
Hewad also confirmed that Ghani had extended an invitation to Imran during a telephonic conversation in October this year.
The visit follows the US announcement to drawdown its troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 by January 15, 2021, raising concerns and fears of further escalation of violence as Ghani’s regime has no or little influence and control in violence-hit Afghanistan. The US currently has some 4,500 troops stationed in Afghanistan.
PM Imran has long maintained that there can be no military solution to the Afghan conflict, but dialogue. In recent months, he has stressed that the people of Afghanistan should embrace this opportunity for a political solution, adding that peace and stability in Afghanistan would be beneficial for all of South Asia and would boost trade and economic cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad.
Pakistan and Afghanistan Thursday agreed on a timeline for actions on joint intelligence services-led work against anti-peace elements, proposals for refugees’ return and further enhancing the regional connectivity.
The time frame for the said actions was agreed in a comprehensive document titled, ‘A Shared Vision’ between Afghanistan and Pakistan, to support peace and stability in both countries and the wider region. The document was issued during visit.
The document is aimed at advancing a forward-looking cooperative partnership between the two countries for political, economic and people-to-people exchanges. The two-part document mentions the agreement reached between Pakistan and Afghanistan on September 30, 2020 wherein they agreed fundamentals to help each other in furtherance of peace and stability in both their countries as well as the wider region.
By December 15, 2020, both the countries would be re-energizing joint intelligence services-led work on analysing, mapping and cooperating against enemies of peace and those undermining the peace process.
By January 1, 2021, the two countries would formulate a joint proposal for refugees’ return, elevating and intensifying treatment of the issue, to the point for taking a credible and progressive action.
Similarly, both the sides agreed for a joint proposal to enhance regional connectivity by January 1, 2021, in a way which strengthens not only both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also the wider region.
Confirming commitments made on previous occasions, the representatives of the two countries agreed to take rapid action on the said three main strands of activity, including identifying lead officials to take forward each activity. They stressed the need for urgency in their approach, with progress needed by the beginning of December 2020.
They agreed that timely progress to meet the vision would require close coordination, a structured dialogue, and willingness to take difficult and courageous decisions.
Under the document, it was decided that the government leaders of the two countries would visit each other’s capitals alternately to keep the momentum going, which was started with PM Imran’s visit. Likewise, Afghan President Ghani would plan a reciprocal visit to Islamabad in the first quarter of 2021.
Moreover, Afghanistan would share with Pakistan a summary of the key issues being discussed during the Afghanistan peace process.
Both countries agreed to keep the shared vision, its commitments, and previous commitments under regular review, to ensure measurable, clear and irreversible steps towards furthering closer and more productive relations between them.
The two sides welcomed the start of Afghanistan peace process and hoped for lasting peace and development in Afghanistan. They affirmed that the two countries should look towards a future relationship built on trust, to achieve tangible outcomes from that relationship.
They viewed that closer and fraternal relations between the two countries would be beneficial, desirable and achievable, as indeed they had been in the decades before the latest conflict in Afghanistan.
As per the agreed document, the shared vision for Afghanistan and Pakistan should comprise the following core elements, including both the countries enjoying a special relationship, founded on predictability, transparency, mutual and full respect for each other’s sovereignty, and on expanding and furthering their mutual interests through state-to-state mechanisms.
They observed that the mutually agreed cooperation framework under APAPPS provided a comprehensive, multi-sectoral mechanism for optimising bilateral cooperation.
The document said that Afghanistan’s posture of “multi alignment” with other countries, pursuing a number of friendly relationships, presented a real opportunity for the two countries to exploit and conversely presented no threat.
Both sides believed that peace and stability of two countries was linked with each other.
“Lasting peace implies peace-making which is wholly inclusive, encompasses the whole nation, and respects a democratic constitutional order in which rights of women and men remain inalienable and protected,” the document said.
Both sides agreed not to allow use of their respective territories for malicious purposes against the other’s territory, and should work together to identify and tackle enemies of peace, irreconcilables and those who undermine the peace process.
Pakistan and Afghanistan vowed to further their links and connections including through people-to- people contacts, business to business, government to government and, of particular note, security to security ties.
It gave a special emphasis on broadening regional connectivity for trade, free movement of people, goods and services, opening of trade and customs posts, and transport and energy infrastructure development, aiming for regional development dividends greater than what each country might expect to achieve alone.
The two sides agreed that expeditious resolution of the refugee situation, like their safe, time-bound and dignified return, would help the two countries address the humanitarian and socio-economic challenges associated with population displacement.
The issues including Afghan peace process, connectivity, refugees’ return and ways to further enhance bilateral ties were also discussed between PM Imran’s “wide-ranging” talks with Afghan President Ghani in the Afghan capital.
They reviewed efforts during the past two years to promote shared objectives of strengthening Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
According to a Foreign Office (FO) press release, the prime minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan, and reiterated his long-standing view that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan rather a negotiated political settlement was the only way forward for enduring peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
He called on all sides for taking necessary measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire to protect Afghan lives.
Underscoring the importance of an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement, the prime minister underlined that Pakistan would respect the decisions made by Afghans in the peace process. He also cautioned against those who could spoil the peace efforts.
The two leaders agreed to constitute committees to pursue security and peace-related matters.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction at increasing high-level leadership exchanges imparting a steady momentum to bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
In this regard, he appreciated that the recent visit of Advisor on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood to Kabul from November 16-18 led to important breakthroughs for commencement of negotiations on Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), progress in revision of APTTA, Customs Assistance Agreement, and understanding to have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation between two central banks.
The two leaders also agreed to expedite infrastructure and energy connectivity projects, besides discussing development of new rail-road projects between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The prime minister extended an invitation to Afghan President Ghani to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.
US APPRECIATES PAKISTAN’S SUPPORT IN AFGHAN PEACE PROCESS:
The United States has appreciated Pakistan’s contributions for conflict prevention in the region and relentless support provided in Afghan peace process.
This was expressed by the US Charge d’ affaires Angela Aggeler during a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa here at the General Headquarters (GHQ) on Thursday, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Both discussed issues related to regional security and Afghan peace process.
According to the military’s media wing, the American official also assured Islamabad of US continuous assistance “for common cause of peace in Afghanistan”.