ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday underscored the need for closer trilateral cooperation between Islamabad, Kabul and Beijing for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
“We should, therefore, explore how our three neighbourly countries can work together to deal with the evolving situation in an effective manner and steer it towards achieving our shared objective of lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at the 4th Session of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan foreign ministers’ dialogue.
The trilateral forum was formed almost four years ago to discuss collaborative efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region; enhancing security and counterterrorism cooperation; and deepening regional connectivity and shared economic development through meaningful projects.
Besides Mr Qureshi, the session was attended by Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi and Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Muhammad Haneef Atmar.
Islamabad urges ‘responsible’ withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
Mr Qureshi recalled the “serious security challenges”, which can emerge because of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
According to US Centcom, up to 44 per cent withdrawal has been completed since President Joe Biden in April announced complete withdrawal by Sept 11 — the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. As the withdrawal is progressing, Afghan forces, because of their lack of motivation, ammunition shortages, and inferior quality of weaponry, are finding it difficult to hold on to the territory once under their control. Taliban have overrun several districts, capturing a number of military bases.
Pakistan fears that the ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan would be exploited by terrorists to intensify attacks against it. The other concern is the massive outflow of refugees in case of intensification of violence.
The foreign minister said that while the US pullout is resulting in security challenges, it has also brought in its wake the improved prospects of peace.
Pakistan has consistently been urging all sides to reach a political settlement so that the conflict could be ended. But, neither Kabul nor Taliban appear too keen for a negotiated settlement.
“The withdrawal of forces also offers a unique opportunity for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and moving the country from a perpetual internal conflict to an era of peace and stability,” Mr Qureshi said.
Emphasising the need for peace and stability in Afghanistan, he said it would lead to a conducive environment for harnessing the true potential of regional connectivity and further deepening economic inter-dependence through use of innovation and technological advances.
Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, while speaking at the weekly media briefing, reiterated Pakistan’s call for an ‘orderly’ and ‘responsible’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving no security vacuum that could be exploited by terrorists.
“In addition, the withdrawal of US forces must coincide with the overall progress achieved in the peace process. In this regard, we have been in contact with all the relevant stakeholders,” he asserted.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2021