UNITED NATIONS, July 10: Pakistan has told the international community that it will not permit its soil to be used against other countries nor allow foreign troops to operate inside the Pakistani territory.
“We can assure greater success in containing terrorism and insurgency on both sides of the border through more effective cooperation and matching military measures,” declared Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while taking part in the UN Security Council debate on Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism and extremism was well known, Mr Qureshi said. The country had lost more soldiers than any other country in that effort, but it would remain determined to defeat and eliminate terrorism and its root causes.
At the same time, he said, Pakistan’s partners, especially Afghanistan, too could contribute to enhancing operational cooperation by undertaking measures such as expanding military deployments and checkposts on the Afghan side of the border to match Pakistan’s 100,000 military personnel and 1200 checkposts; real time intelligence sharing; caution in the use of artillery and aerial attacks; supply of counter-insurgency equipment requested by Pakistan; more effective check of the 40,000 daily legal crossings, and relocation of Afghan refugee camps close to the border from Pakistan to controlled sites in Afghanistan.
He said that more needed to be done to overcome suspicion and distrust and suggested that initial steps could include declaring mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, avoidance of provocative statements and the revival and reinvigoration of the Jirga process. The
Ankara process as well as Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan tripartite cooperation should be supported. He said Pakistan had condemned the terrorist attack against the Indian Embassy in Kabul and deeply regretted the loss of life and damage caused by that unacceptable suicide bombing.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan would continue to be conducted between the democratically elected governments of the two countries, he said.
Mr Qureshi said the gains made since the Bonn agreement must be consolidated and the challenges addressed effectively, in particular the intensifying threat posed by terrorist violence and militant insurgency. The continuing insecurity and violence in several parts of Afghanistan could be attributed to a complex interplay of several factors, including the Taliban, Al Qaeda, lingering warlordism, factional rivalries and criminal activity.
Peace and stability in Afghanistan were in Pakistans vital interest as the two countries faced the common threat of extremism and terrorism, he said. “Peace and stability are essential to enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to serve as the hub and corridor for trade and economic cooperation between the dynamic regions of South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Gulf region.”
Apart from the Afghan people, he added, the people of Pakistan had suffered the most from the decades of conflict in Afghanistan.
An end to the conflict in Afghanistan would help to restore normality, he said, adding that several measures had been taken to prevent cross-border infiltration.
However, the security environment had deteriorated sharply as a result of Pakistan’s role in the counter-terrorism campaign. In 2007, Al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked groups had turned on Pakistan. Pakistan had suffered more suicide bombings than Afghanistan, resulting in 2,000 civilian casualties and the terrorist onslaught continued. There was popular disenchantment with the terrorists and extremists, including in the frontier region.
Mr Qureshi said Pakistan’s new holistic strategy sought to restore peace in the frontier regions, halt and reverse extremism and eliminate terrorism and violence through political dialogue and socio-economic measures, while retaining the option to use force. Political reconciliation and economic reconstruction and development were priority options to win over the frontier tribes and the moderates and to isolate the terrorists and violent extremists.
Pacification would require a painstaking, region-by-region effort to win the trust and support of local people and their leaders, he said.
Negotiations were ongoing with tribal leaders and other influential people, but not with terrorists. “Reconciliation and reconstruction are the only sustainable solutions to insurgent violence and instability.”
The economic relationship with Afghanistan was already intimate and intense, with trade amounting to around $1 billion, and the potential far greater, the foreign minister said. Pakistan had committed $300 million to Afghanistans reconstruction and pledged $20 million for the resettlement of refugees.
Despite shortages in Pakistan, 50,000 tons of wheat would be exported to Afghanistan at subsidised rates.
He said economic cooperation could be enhanced by jointly establishing reconstruction opportunity zones along the border, implementing Pakistans plans to import electricity from Central Asia, and implementing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.
“Afghanistan and Pakistan can succeed in achieving their objective of peace, stability and prosperity through mutual cooperation. They can succeed only if they enjoy the unconditional support of the international community.”
Later, addressing an ambassadors meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference at the United Nations, Mr Qureshi said: “In our efforts to restore peace through dialogue and development, any act of terrorism or cross-border attack in Afghanistan from Pakistan soil will not be tolerated.”
He warned that “if any such violation occurs, our government will take forceful action to eliminate that reaffirming that Pakistan will not allow any foreign troops on its territory”.