ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that his visit to Kabul a day earlier was aimed at signalling Islamabad’s commitment to peace in Afghanistan and noted that Pakistan’s erstwhile tribal areas would benefit from reduction in violence in the war-ravaged neighbuoring country.

Mr Khan, who paid the day-long visit along with his foreign policy, security and trade aides, said in a Twitter posting: “My visit to Kabul was another step towards conveying Pakistan’s commitment to peace in Afghanistan. I have never believed in military solutions which is why I always believed that in Afghanistan peace will be achieved through political dialogue.”

“After the Afghans, we have the greatest stake in this peace as it will allow for connectivity & trade, bringing prosperity to both Afghans & Pakistanis. Our people in the tribal areas, who have suffered the ravages of the war in Afghanistan, will especially benefit from peace & trade,” he further said.

Imran says his Kabul visit shows Pakistan’s commitment to peace

These comments are the first by the prime minister after his return from Kabul.

Both the prime minister’s media comments in Kabul and the statement issued by his office at the conclusion of the visit had sought to reassure the Afghan leadership of Pakistan’s readiness to help in reducing violence and underscore the need for bolstering trade and economic ties.

A visit by the PM’s Adviser on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood to Kabul on November 16-18, just ahead of Mr Khan’s visit, reflected the desire on both sides to deepen trade ties. Mr Dawood’s visit led to important breakthroughs for commencement of negotiations on the Preferential Trade Agreement, progress in revision of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity, Customs Assistance Agreement and understanding to have memorandums of understanding for cooperation between central banks of the two countries.

The Pakistani areas along Afghan border were hit the worst during the fight against terrorism as militants fleeing US bombing of Tora Bora in Afghanistan crossed into erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Subsequent counter-terrorism operations in the region displaced millions of people. Although normalcy has been largely restored in the region, more is required to create economic opportunities there for the locals.

Mr Khan had in his comments said that his delegation had fruitful talks with the Afghan side on improving trade and economic ties. These, he had said, would help the people affected by violence.

“We hope that this trade and connectivity will increase between the two countries and for that it is imperative that the level of violence goes down,” Khan had said, according to Voice of America.

“So, I repeat again Mr President, that the whole objective of this visit is to build trust to communicate more to assure you that wherever you need our help more than your expectations we will be helping you,” he had further said.

Pakistan first facilitated US -Taliban talks, whose successful culmination last February paved the way for intra-Afghan dialogue and later helped the Afghans to settle their differences and start the talks in Doha in September. The talks have, however, have so far failed to make progress and the two sides (Afghan government and Taliban) have been blaming each other for the stalemate, whereas violence has increased.

The timing of Pakistan’s reiteration of commitment to help in violence reduction is significant as it follows closely on the heels of US announcement of reduction in number of troops from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2020