DUSHANBE: ​Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the 9th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) in Tajikistan today. In his address, the foreign minister emphasised the need for a political solution in Afghanistan and reiterated Pakistan’s support for peaceful negotiations between the Afghan factions. 

Speaking on the occasion, the minister expressed his pleasure at being at the conference in-person while the entire world has been disrupted by the pandemic. He highlighted the importance of the HoA-IP platform saying, “HoA-IP is an important platform to bring together regional parties.” 

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and is an important platform to promote peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan through regional cooperation, confidence-building measures (CBMs), and dialogue. 

Reiterating Pakistan’s support and cooperation to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said, “For us, Afghanistan is an important neighbour and a brotherly country with strong historical links. No other nation could claim to have such immutable bonds with Afghanistan, and thus more desirous of peace and progress in Afghanistan, than Pakistan.” 

“Afghan peace process stands at a defining juncture. Having faced conflict and instability for over 40 years, Afghanistan has never been so close to turning the tide. In September 2020, we witnessed a gathering of Afghan parties in Doha, which was unthinkable before. That gathering was preceded by another milestone when the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement was signed in February 2020. The progress made thus far has, indeed, created a historic opportunity for the Afghan leadership to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive negotiated political settlement,” he said. 

Qureshi took this moment to emphasise that such gains in negotiations and the peace process were only possible due to a commitment to a non-military resolution to the conflict, “We have arrived at this stage, guided by the conviction that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.” 

However, these gains also come with their distinct challenges for the regions and the parties involved, he acknowledged. We are cognizant that this historic opportunity for the Afghan nation is also laced with formidable challenges. “We have consistently cautioned against the role of ‘spoilers’, both within and outside Afghanistan. We remain deeply concerned about the continuation of violence across Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of precious lives. We fear that any space gained by ISIS and Al-Qaeda could accentuate the threat of terrorism,” he cautioned the international community. 

He further expressed concern over the fact that such violence was not only providing a space for terror outfits in the region but also actively undermining the access to opportunities people in Afghanistan have, saying, “We are concerned that the risks posed by damaged infrastructure and lack of economic opportunities may undermine the gains made in the peace process.”

Highlighting the post-war construction and rehabilitation Pakistan has extended to Afghanistan, he emphasised the role regional powers have to play in rebuilding Afghanistan. Outlining Pakistan’s efforts he said, “Let me just briefly underline that, besides facilitating the peace process, Pakistan is extending all possible support to Afghanistan. We have committed US$ 1 billion for Afghanistan’s development and reconstruction. Nearly US$ 500 million have already been spent on infrastructure and capacity-building projects. A new visa regime has been instituted to facilitate travel. Despite COVID-19, we opened five border crossing-points to facilitate bilateral and transit trade. We are engaged with Afghanistan on a revision of the Transit Trade Agreement. Pakistan has also operationalized Gwadar seaport for Afghan Transit Trade.” 

“Pakistan is keen to move forward on regional connectivity and energy projects such as CASA-1000 and TAPI. The Trans-Afghan railway project connecting Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan is being pursued to promote trade, tourism and people-to-people exchanges,” he continued, “The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is open with beneficial prospects for Afghanistan.”

The foreign minister said that all these steps are practical manifestations of Pakistan’s resolve to build close cooperative ties with Afghanistan. 

Closing his address, he said, “I express my confidence that our deliberations today will be meaningful and productive and that the ‘Dushanbe Declaration’ would reflect our common resolve to standby and support the Afghan people at this most consequential time in their history.”

“For its part, Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours,” he concluded. 

Apart from the foreign minister, the Pakistani delegation includes  Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Tajikistan Imran Haider and senior officers of the Foreign Office.


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