ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference on Tuesday stressed the need for mutual understanding and collaborative efforts for stable Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship.

The focus was on promoting peace, stability and socioeconomic development in the region and the potential of religious diplomacy. There was consensus on the need for sustained efforts to address humanitarian crises, promote dialogue and build trust between two sides.

The conference, “Pakistan-Afghanistan religious scholars’ conference” was organised by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in collaboration with its Afghan partner Organisation for Economic Studies and Peace (OESP) as part of their initiative Beyond Boundaries.

Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz emphasised the importance of religious diplomacy and the role of scholars in addressing issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Based on his experiences of participation in various delegations and dialogues aimed at promoting girls’ education, both domestically and in Afghanistan, he emphasised the need to engage with key stakeholders, including religious leaders who possess the influence and understanding to contribute meaningfully to resolving bilateral issues.

He stressed the importance of understanding Afghan perspectives, addressing their concerns transparently and advocating for a people-centric approach to diplomacy.

Chief Khateeb Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Maulana Mohammad Tayyab Qureshi noted that the way forward for the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan lied in both sides proactively addressing mutual concerns and taking conscious efforts to promote cordial ties between them at different levels, including people-to-people, economy and political.

He stressed the importance of addressing the insecurity and humanitarian crises plaguing the region, particularly the desire among the young members of the population to leave due to economic hardships.

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, former Afghan diplomat, shed light on Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian situation, calling for the lifting of sanctions to tackle the crisis and economic challenges effectively. He suggested integrating the Afghan Taliban into the global fabric to effectively combat terrorism and ensure stability.

Maulana Hamidul Haq Haqqani, Vice Chancellor Darul Uloom Haqqani, highlighted the intertwined fate and historical connections between the two countries. He advocated for inclusive policies that promote education and empower women, recognising the crucial role of education in fostering socioeconomic stability and peace.

Mufti Jamaluddin, former MNA (JUI) South Waziristan, said cultural and religious similarities between Pakistan and Afghanistan could bind the two nations into a relationship characterised by cooperation, trust, and understanding. He said cross-border interactions should not be hindered by bureaucratic hurdles, and underlined the importance of improved people-to-people ties and mobility across the border.

Khaliq Dad Haqqani, Afghan religious scholar, underscored the need for sustained efforts to address longstanding challenges and promote stability in Afghanistan. He highlighted the positive developments observed during Taliban rule, including the restoration of peace and the neutralisation of militant groups. He stressed the pivotal role of education in empowering Afghan youth and fostering national progress, advocating for standardised and inclusive educational systems in Afghanistan for its integration into the global community.

Maulana Khanzeb, religious scholar and politician from Bajaur, stressed the importance of inclusive and well-thought out policies both within Pakistan and Afghanistan and externally with regard to regional dynamics.

Razia Aziz, former MNA, focused on the economic and educational aspects of the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship. He highlighted the detrimental effects of trade disruptions and emphasised the importance of keeping trade routes open to strengthen bilateral ties and promote economic stability in both countries.

Dr Abdul Rehman, Chairman Department of Law and Sharia, Shaikh Zayed Islamic Centre University of Peshawar, spoke on the role of media in shaping public perceptions and promoting constructive dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Abid Shakiri, a religious scholar, highlighted the significance of women’s education as a fundamental right and a key driver of socioeconomic progress. He also underscored the role of religious scholars and institutions in promoting tolerance, compassion and social justice, calling for their active involvement in advocating for human rights and equality.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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