KARACHI: Experts from Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday welcomed Islamabad’s decision to extend Afghan refugees’ period of stay and said that tackling trust deficit between the two neighbours and improving security situation were crucial for bilateral relations.
They said the momentum to make ‘terrorist’ outfits weaker in Pakistan was increasing and advised Islamabad and Kabul to focus on improving bilateral trade.
These views were expressed by members of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Committee during their third workshop in Karachi. The workshop was part of Beyond Boundaries II, a track I.5/II dialogue series undertaken by the Centre for Research and Security Studies in partnership with the Women Peace and Security Organisation of Afghanistan to foster better understanding and cooperation between civil society members of the two neighbours, soothe bitter context and address the trust deficit between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They said border management was important to ensure to and fro movement of goods and people between the two countries and also to monitor militants’ movement across the porous border.
Terrorism can’t be defeated by terrorism, say participants of a track-II workshop from both countries
They said there should not be standstill on bilateral relations and the two countries should cooperate in the fields of security, sports, media, education, arts and culture for peaceful future.
Ann Wilkens, former ambassador of Sweden to Pakistan and Afghanistan, while chairing the meeting, said: “Afghanistan and Pakistan have a great potential. Having served in both countries as ambassador, I love Afghanistan and Pakistan equally and want to see them as friendly neighbours always.”
Khalid Pashtoon, a member of the Afghan parliament, said: “We must appreciate efforts of Afghan military which is in the process of training but still able to recoil Taliban attacks. We fear a possible spring offensive and Daesh attacks this year. We must also appreciate the increasing momentum in Pakistan to make terrorist outfits weaker.”
He said there were no issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan at people-to-people level. “Both countries need to build on the commonalities such as religion, cultural values, food, music, language, etc. The main concerns on both sides should be considered to reach an acceptable conclusion.”
Muzammil Shinwari, former Afghan deputy minister for trade and commerce, praised Pakistan’s decision to extend the period of stay for Afghan refugees. “There is a dire need to tackle the longstanding trust deficit and improve security situation between the two countries. Both countries should focus on improving bilateral trade. The transit trade has also dropped down which can affect the bilateral trade.”
He thanked the Pakistan Cricket Board for inviting Afghan players to Pakistan.
Wazhma Frogh, adviser to the Afghan defence ministry, said the media could play a key role; nevertheless, it needed right piece of information to properly serve its purpose of public information and improving their perceptions.
“You cannot defeat terrorism by terrorism,” said Elay Ershad, a member of the Afghan parliament, while underpinning the importance of dialogue for peace. “Afghanistan is not willing to support any initiative which is against its national security.”
Dr Shoaib Suddle, former inspector general of police, said blame game was the core issue between Afghanistan and Pakistan which must be resolved as other regional actors tried to take advantage of it.
“Positive progress is being made on the issue of border management. Border management becomes extremely important given the movement of goods and people between the two countries. This is also critical from the point of view of terrorists’ movement across the two countries through the porous border.”
He said the main concern on the Islamabad side was that Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan and other regional countries should be ‘independent’. The bilateral issues should be resolved in a more holistic manner. The new Pakistani army chief’s conversation with [Afghan President] Ashraf Ghani and his deputy Abdullah Abdullah is a positive development.
Qazi Humayun, former Pakistani ambassador, said there should not be standstill on bilateral relations. He said the prime minister of Pakistan had called for exploring new avenues of cooperation with Afghanistan during a recent national security meeting.
“The dialogue about future of Afghanistan shouldn’t be to its exclusion. Afghanistan’s participation in such talks is in its best interest,” he said, referring to the recent Russia-China-Pakistan trilateral meeting in Moscow.
He quoted Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz as saying that Pakistan wished to facilitate the transit trade in a focused manner.
“If Pakistan is to be blamed for negatives, it must also be appreciated for the positives,” said Shazia Marri, a member of the National Assembly. “It is time to undo the damage to bilateral relations and move forward. The two sides should understand genuine need for cooperation in security, sports, media, education, arts and culture for peaceful future.”
Mian Sana, a former Pakistani ambassador, said mistrust was the core issue between the two countries and called for serious discussions while sitting together.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2017