ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday signalled its willingness to help Afghans deal with challenges in efforts for peace in their country.
“Collaborative approach and patience can help overcome all challenges for which Pakistan is ready to play its part with utmost sincerity,” Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa said while chairing the 230th Corps Commanders’ Conference at the General Headquarters.
Afghan peace process was one of the major agenda points for the meeting that discussed geo-strategic environment and regional and national security situation.
The reiteration of the support for Afghan peace process has come as the agreement signed between Taliban and the US last month through Pakistani facilitation ran into trouble and March 10 timeline set for start of intra-Afghan dialogue was missed.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani initially refused to release 5000 prisoners as stipulated in US-Taliban agreement, but later signed a decree on Tuesday for phased release of the detainees.
Taliban, meanwhile, insist that all 5000 prisoners have to be released before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue. At the same time Taliban have intensified attacks on Afghan security forces.
Underscoring the importance of Afghan peace, Gen Bajwa said: “The path to regional stability and peace passes through Afghanistan”.
The Foreign Office, meanwhile, called on Afghan factions to take steps towards the next stage in the process, the start of intra-Afghan dialogue.
“It is now imperative to seize the opportunity towards the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations,” FO Spokesperson Aisha Farouqi said at the weekly media briefing.
She said Pakistan hoped that Afghan factions would find a way to sit together and arrive at a solution to enable the start of intra-Afghan talks. Emphasising the importance of the intra-Afghan talks, she said it was a crucial step towards durable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
The spokesperson hailed the US-Taliban Peace Agreement as a historic step towards peace and stability in Afghanistan. “The Peace Agreement reflects commitment by both the US and Taliban to work constructively,” she said.
Pakistan, she recalled, had played its role as a facilitator in US-Taliban talks and hoped that representatives of Afghan people would lead Afghanistan out of conflict and strife.
In reply to questions about international travel curbs imposed by different countries because of coronavirus pandemic, the spokesperson endorsed those actions.
“Each country is taking measures to ensure safety of their own people and citizens of other countries residing in those countries. It is the primary responsibility of those countries to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” she said.
Pakistan, she said, was also taking all the requisite steps at its borders and airports to control the spread of coronavirus.
Gen Bajwa directed the army to prepare for supporting national effort for controlling coronavirus.
“The forum also discussed emerging situation with regard to COVID-19 and preventive measures taken at Army Level. The COAS directed all concerned to gear up preparations in support of national effort to counter this pandemic in case of any eventuality,” the ISPR said.
The National Security Committee will meet on Friday and is likely to come up with a national strategy for tackling the situation.
Twenty cases of coronavirus have been reported in Pakistan so far.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2020