FM seeks joint regional strategy on Afghanistan

-Reaffirms Pakistan’s support to peaceful, united Afghanistan
-Says India by playing the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan disturbing regional peace
-Holds meetings with FMs of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said that Pakistan wanted to adopt a joint strategy on Afghanistan after consultation with important countries of the region.
“As Pakistan is fulfilling its responsibilities, the improved situation in Afghanistan will benefit all. If, God forbids, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, all will be affected.” Qureshi said in a statement from Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
The Foreign Minister said since he was in Tajikistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, he wanted to utilize the opportunity to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with important countries of the region, who were also monitoring the situation. Qureshi said with a detailed discussion already held with his Tajik counterpart on the situation in Afghanistan on Monday, he besides held meetings with Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan Tuesday.
The Foreign Minister said that India by playing the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan was disturbing regional peace. He urged the international community to prohibit India from the negative attitude, adding, India should also let Afghanistan live with peace. Qureshi said that as the neighboring countries would be affected by the situation in Afghanistan, it was a golden opportunity to take consultative process forward. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan was the only country which despite its limited resources was hosting three million Afghan refugees since decades, adding, however, if the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated again, it cannot afford to welcome more refugees from Afghanistan.
Qureshi said Pakistan by sacrificing 70,000 lives and suffering huge economic losses had paid a heavy price in the war against terrorism.
He said that since under the guise of Afghan refugees, some anti-Pakistan elements can enter the country, it was their obligation to remain cautious. The Foreign Minister said he considered most of the Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan as innocent who wanted to return to their country. He said that Pakistan wanted to help the Afghan people on humanitarian ground, but also wanted to ensure the safety and security of its own people.
The Foreign Minister said Pakistan desired sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan. How long fingers will be pointed towards Pakistan, he questioned.
He urged Afghans not to repeat the mistakes of past and find a way by sitting together. “We invite the important Afghan personalities for dialogue. Afghan leaders should sit and tell how we can help them?” he added.
Meanwhile, Qureshi on Tuesday stressed upon the Afghan leaders to achieve a “negotiated political settlement at the earliest” as US forces withdraw from the country, saying such a measure would bring peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
In a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Haneef Atmar on the sidelines of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Dushanbe, Qureshi reaffirmed Pakistan’s “consistent support” to a peaceful and united Afghanistan, which is at peace with itself and its neighbours, the Foreign Office said in a statement.
The foreign minister remarked that Afghan leaders should seize the current “historic opportunity” and take advantage of international convergence on the final settlement of the Afghan conflict by working together on an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. Qureshi also expressed concern over high levels of violence in Afghanistan which has resulted in the loss of many lives. He emphasised the need to take immediate steps to decrease violence, leading to a comprehensive ceasefire.
Stressing that “negative statements” could not cloud Pakistan’s positive contribution to the Afghan peace process and that “blame game will not serve the region,” the foreign minister urged his Afghan counterpart to address all concerns through established institutional mechanisms, including the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity. He said Pakistan looked forward to hosting the review meeting of APAPPS in Islamabad at the earliest.
“Pakistan supports a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which would yield mutual dividends and benefits in terms of peace in the region, economic prosperity and regional connectivity,” he added, according to the FO.
In a tweet after the meeting, Qureshi said the path ahead was ultimately to be determined by Afghan leaders “from whom flexibility is essential to achieve a negotiated settlement and any blame games are detrimental to peace process”.
He added that neither Pakistan nor the international community nor the people of Afghanistan wished for “a repeat of civil war”. The minister further said Pakistan and Afghanistan’s destinies were “inter-twined”.
“We believe working together will help us realise stronger regional connectivity and greater people-centric linkages,” he wrote, adding that he looked forward to hosting his Afghan counterpart in Islamabad to continue the collective efforts.
Pakistan concerned: Information Minister Fawad Choudhry said that the government was “very concerned” about the worsening situation in Afghanistan and was making efforts to ensure that a situation was not created in which Afghans would have to leave their homes.
He said that the global community should “stand with Pakistan” instead of simply predicting the number of Afghan refugees. Chaudhry said Pakistan was observing the situation in Afghanistan and “full efforts” were being made to learn from past experiences and form a policy.