ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Friday agreed to finalise their bilateral dialogue framework as the former reaffirmed support for the Afghan government’s offer of peace dialogue to the Taliban and urged the militant group to join the reconciliation process without any delay.
The agreement on the bilateral dialogue framework — Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) — was reached during Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s daylong trip to Kabul.
Mr Abbasi held talks with President Ashraf Ghani and met other Afghan leaders, including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and High Peace Council chief Karim Khalili.
The prime minister visited Kabul on the invitation of President Ghani who had at the Kabul Process meeting on Feb 28 offered talks to the Taliban and vowed to repair ties with Pakistan.
“President Ghani and Prime Minister Abbasi discussed the entire gamut of Pak-Afghan relations, including peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, counterterrorism, return of Afghan refugees, bilateral trade and regional connectivity,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on the visit.
The discussions were said to be held in “a very cordial and friendly atmosphere”.
During PM Abbasi’s meeting with Mr Ghani, it was agreed that APAPPS could be a useful framework for broad-based and structured engagement on all issues of mutual interest.
Pakistan asks Taliban to join reconciliation process without delay
APAPPS is a Pakistani initiative for cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation and joint economic development. The plan enjoys the backing of both China and the United States.
Both sides have been negotiating the new engagement framework for months and have held at least three rounds at the foreign secretaries’ level. However, the Afghans had been cautious and complained that the proposed plan did not adequately address their concerns.
The proposed APAPPS will have five groups when it becomes formally operational, including the one on security and intelligence cooperation.
The Afghan presidency, meanwhile, said the two leaders had agreed on continuing the talks on APAPPS and tasked their foreign ministers and national security advisers with concluding the agreement on the new framework.
There was also a consensus on the need for a political solution to the Afghan conflict.
Prime Minister Abbasi reiterated Pakistan’s support for President Ghani’s vision for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and his offer of peace talks to Taliban.
“Both leaders called on the Taliban to respond positively to the peace offer and join the peace process without further delay,” the statement said.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to not allowing their soils to be used for anti-state activities against each other.
PM Abbasi’s visit was preceded by Afghan allegations that Pakistan Air Force jets bombed areas in bordering Kunar province of Afghanistan.
The allegation was immediately rebutted by the Foreign Office which said the air raids hit terrorist targets within the Pakistani territory that enabled cross-border attacks from sanctuaries on the other side of the border.
Moreover, rail and road connectivity projects to boost trade and transit activities between and through the two countries also came under discussion.
“They agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Economic Commission to take forward planning and implementation of key rail road gas pipeline and energy projects that would integrate Pakistan and Afghanistan with Central Asia,” the FO said.
“The two leaders also agreed to move forward on Chaman-Kandahar-Herat railway line, Peshawar-Kabul Motorway, and other connectivity projects which can help realise the tremendous potential of South and Central Asian regions by providing shortest access through the sea ports of Gwadar and Karachi. They emphasised the need for early completion of TAPI and CASA-1000 projects,” the FO added.
Both sides agreed to continue their high-level engagement. PM Abbasi extended invitations to President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to visit Islamabad at their earliest convenience.
The prime minister met senior political leaders, including Gulbadin Hekmatyar, Ustad Mohammad Mohaqiq, Ustad Mohammad Karim Khalili and Pir Sayed Hamed Gailani, to convey the support of the government and people of Pakistan to all ethnic groups in Afghanistan and underscore Pakistan’s commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2018