Pakistan to remain neutral in Afghan election, says PM | Pakistan Today

Pakistan to remain neutral in Afghan election, says PM

–PM Imran meets delegation of senior Afghan leaders

–Sources quote PM as saying Pakistan won’t repeat past mistakes

–Afghan delegation lauds Pakistan’s role as peacemaker

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday informed a delegation of senior Afghan political leadership that there is no blue-eyed of Pakistan among the candidates for the presidential election in Afghanistan and it is up to the people to choose their leader.

Senior Afghan leaders called on the premier at Prime Minister House after taking part in a Conference held as part of Lahore Peace Process organised by the Lahore Centre for Peace and Research (LCPR). The dialogue was initiated to discuss peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan.

A participant told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity that the prime minister was informed by the Afghan leaders that they had seen a new hope as Pakistan had adopted a role of facilitator in the Afghan peace process after Imran took over as the premier.

“During the dialogue, a leader from General Dostams party told Imran Khan that since the presidential election was being held in Afghanistan, Pakistan should help the peace talks between Afghan leaders so as the blood spilling should come to an end and a genuine Afghan government is formed,” the source said.

The source quoted prime minister as telling the Afghan leaders that Pakistan would not repeat mistakes of past and would remain neutral in Afghan election.

“The premier told the delegation that the US requested peace dialogue before September this year so that the Taliban could join the presidential election. He said that Pakistan would remain out and its role would be that of a facilitator,” the source added.

The source quoted Ahmed Wali Masood, the brother of former Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Masood, telling the prime minister that the delegates were by Pakistan’s assurances that it did not have any favourite among candidates for the presidential election.

“I am personally touched by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government,” the source said and added that the delegates also praised Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Lahore Centre for hosting then well.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Afghan leader Hanif Atmar, the former Afghan intelligence chief who is seen as a strong critic of Pakistan, said that he was touched by PM Imran’s vision.

“Frankly, I am deeply impressed by the approach of the new Pakistani leadership. We hope that in the future the Afghan peace process will be successful,” he added.

Prominent Afghan leaders who called on the premier included High Peace Council chief Mohammad Karim Khalili, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, Wali Masood, brother of Ahmad Shah Masood, Hizb-e-Wahdat leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, former MP Fauzia Kofi and Pir Hamid Gailani. Representatives of Uzbek leader General Abdul Rashid Dostam were also part of the delegation.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and presidential candidate Haneef Atamr, who were also invited to the conference, welcomed the conference. Karzai said that he was unable to attend the conference but hoped that Pakistan would continue its efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan. Haneef Atmar’s office in Kabul also welcomed the conference and said that a high-level delegation of Atmar’s election team has gone to Pakistan to attend the event.

The conference provided an opportunity to enhance people-to-people contacts between the two countries and share ideas for the future course of action. The forum also provided a platform to discuss connectivity, trade, economy, business, health and development. Discussion on security situation from the Afghan perspective purely from an academic point helped give feedback to the respective governments for future engagements at multiple levels.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave a welcome speech, setting a course for further discussions.

In his address, Foreign Minister Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s unshakable resolve to support lasting peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan, besides lending support to the reconstruction and development efforts in the war-torn country. He maintained that Pakistan stands for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and remains fully committed to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.

In his closing remarks, Minister for SAFRON Shehryar Afridi said that PM Imran’s vision is that Afghanistan is and will be an independent and sovereign state and its leadership will take all the decisions without any external intervention, adding that under Afghan peace process, Afghans will resolve all differences without any interference. He said Pakistan’s civil and military leadership is united for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace dialogue as peaceful Afghanistan is linked to peace in the region and beyond.

Later, President Arif Alvi hosted a dinner for the delegates.

The conference was attended by a large number of former ambassadors, think tanks members, analysts, media professionals, researchers, refugee representatives and intellectuals.

The conference provided a unique opportunity for social and cultural bondage and understanding of Pakistani and Afghan viewpoints on diverse issues. The event was organised a few days ahead of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s scheduled visit on Jun 27. Since some political advisors to President Ghani also attended the event, it set the right course of future cooperation.

It is worth mentioning that the United States and Afghan Taliban are set to hold a crucial round of peace talks in Doha on July 7. This would be the seventh round of talks between the two parties.

On Saturday, while addressing the inaugural session of the conference, FM Qureshi had said that Pakistan is committed to finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.

“Pakistan’s perspective on Afghanistan is clear, we support an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself, and at peace with its neighbours,” Qureshi had said.

“We respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our neighbour and remain firmly committed to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. We are determined to build our bilateral relationship on the principles of non-interference, mutual respect and common interest,” he had added.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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