Veteran Afghan politician and Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who arrived in Islamabad on a three-day visit earlier on Monday, said Afghans think of Pakistan as their second home, a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.
Hekmatyar made these comments during a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the FO.
During the meeting, the two discussed matters of mutual interest, bilateral relations between the two countries and the Afghan peace process, the statement added. The foreign minister said Pakistan will continue to play the role of a facilitator in the Afghan peace process.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan has said lasting peace can only be achieved through a political settlement accepted by the people of Afghanistan," Qureshi said, adding that he was pleased that Islamabad's stance was now being recognised by the world.
"Intra-Afghan talks provide a unique opportunity to the leadership for establishing lasting peace in the country," the foreign minister said.
During his visit, the Afghan leader is expected to meet President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan in addition to Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser among others.
He is also expected to speak at a programme of a policy think-tank where he will interact with the media.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the FO had said Hekmatyar's visit would provide an opportunity for exchanging views on the Afghan peace process, strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries as well as people-to-people interaction.
Hekmatyar, who twice served as Afghan prime minister in 1990s, had recently said that India, due to its rivalry with Pakistan, was dissatisfied with the peace process in Afghanistan and it had started supporting local militias to act as spoilers of the peace process.
“China and Pakistan have a common and coordinated position on Afghanistan and not only do they support the peace process, rather they see it as beneficial for their regional interests, especially if it leads to a reduction in India’s presence in Afghanistan,” the Afghan leader had said.
Hekmatyar's visit comes a few weeks after Chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Dr Abdullah Abdullah visited Pakistan.
Hours before returning to Kabul after completing his three-day visit, the Afghan leader had said: “We had good discussions, extensive discussions with authorities, civilian and military, and in most of the case for example on the need for reduction in violence, the need for getting to ceasefire, on the need for showing flexibility […] we are on the same page.”
Abdullah's visit, his first to Pakistan in his new role, was meant to seek Islamabad's cooperation for what he had said in his speech at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad “to see the process through to the next stage”.
For that to happen an equal emphasis was placed by both sides on exploring possibilities for improving Pak–Afghan bilateral ties that had been marred by mistrust and acrimony for a long time. Both sides, by the end of the visit, suggested that ground had been prepared for turning the page in bilateral relations.
'Pakistan keen to see peace process move forward'
Also on Monday, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan (SRSG), Deborah Lyons, called on Foreign Minister Qureshi.
During the meeting, Qureshi appreciated the role of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in supporting Afghanistan’s socio-economic development, according to an FO statement.
Highlighting Pakistan's role to facilitate the Afghan peace process, the minister said Pakistan was keen to see the process move forward "which would help in reduction in violence and deny space to ‘spoilers’ who did not wish to see return of peace and stability in the region".
He also detailed the steps taken by Pakistan to support Afghanistan in transit trade and movement of people, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the press release said.
"Reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment for safe and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland, the foreign minister urged UNAMA to play an active role in helping with [a] time-bound and well-resourced refugee return and their sustainable reintegration in the Afghan society," it added.