–Afghan president holds one-on-one meeting with Pakistani PM, discusses regional security and geopolitics
–FM says Afghan president’s visit to Pakistan would bring both countries closer and strengthen bilateral relations
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday held a one-on-one meeting here during which they agreed to open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between both countries based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of their peoples.
The Afghan president arrived at the Prime Minister’s House after holding delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
A contingent of the armed forces presented a guard of honour and national anthems of both countries were played as Ghani was received by PM Imran. The premier introduced the Afghan president to members of his cabinet and other senior officials, while Ghani introduced Imran to members of the visiting delegation.
During the meeting, PM Imran reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to bring about a qualitative transformation in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations as part of his vision of a “peaceful neighbourhood”.
The two leaders agreed on the importance of crafting a forward-looking vision of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.
Imran reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to support the Afghan peace process as a shared responsibility. He underlined that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only viable option to end decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. In this regard, Pakistan supported a result-oriented intra-Afghan dialogue.
The PM underscored Pakistan’s respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and its commitment to stand by the Afghan people at this crucial juncture. Pakistan remains committed to a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan and wishes to have stronger political, trade, economic, and people-to-people relations with Afghanistan, he added.
The two leaders said that early completion of major energy connectivity projects such as Central Asia-South Asia (CASA 1000) electricity transmission line and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline would bring long-term economic benefits to the countries involved.
It was agreed to optimally utilize the existing mechanisms — including Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) and Joint Economic Commission (JEC) — to remove difficulties in transit and bilateral trade and to explore new possibilities of mutually-beneficial economic and commercial relations.
Earlier, in his meeting with Qureshi, President Ghani lauded Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan and the region.
The foreign minister conveyed Pakistan’s commitment to continue playing its role for peace in Afghanistan with sincerity and an open heart.
“For decades now, the people of Afghanistan have suffered due to the security situation and instability prevalent in their country. That must end and Pakistan wants to play its due role in achieving that objective,” FM Qureshi said.
“Pakistan has always emphasised the need for result-oriented talks. We firmly believe that is the only way to establish durable peace in Afghanistan.”
The minister expressed confidence that the Afghan president’s visit to Pakistan would bring the two countries closer and strengthen bilateral relations.
The two sides agreed to expedite implementation of the already decided strategy of fostering peace and brotherhood for the betterment and welfare of both countries.
They exchanged views on ways to enhance bilateral economy, trade and investment, and promote cooperation in communications, energy, culture and people-to-people contact.
In an address in Islamabad later in the day, Foreign Minister Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate an intra-Afghan dialogue, which he said was essential for sustained peace in Afghanistan and the region.
“A better relationship between the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan is essential for us to achieve our aim of collective prosperity,” said the foreign minister.
Qureshi asserted that Islamabad was keen on playing a constructive role in ensuring global and regional stability.
“No one has suffered more than these two bordering nations,” he said, adding that better connectivity between the two nations was crucial for sustainable progress.
President Ghani arrived in Pakistan on Thursday morning for a two-day visit on the invitation of PM Imran. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textiles, Industries Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood received him at Nur Khan airbase.
The Afghan president was accompanied by his Special Representative and Ambassador Extraordinaire to Pakistan Atif Mashal and a high-level delegation including ministers, advisers, senior officials and businessmen.
President Ghani’s two-day official visit is seen as part of the latest push to not only sort out differences with Pakistan on bilateral issues but also give new impetus to peace efforts.
This is the Afghan president’s first visit to Islamabad in over three-and-half-years and comes at a time when peace talks between the United States and Afghan Taliban are believed to have entered a critical phase.
President Ghani will also travel to Lahore where he will participate in a business forum attended by business representatives from both the countries. He will offer Friday prayers at the Badshahi Mosque and then depart from Pakistan the same evening.
This is President Ghani’s third visit to Pakistan and follows the recently held first review session of the landmark Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). The Afghan president had earlier undertaken a bilateral visit to Pakistan in November 2014 and subsequently came to attend the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA) Ministerial Conference in Islamabad in December 2015.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have remained tense for years largely because of deepening trust deficit between the two neighbours.
At the heart of the problem is suspicion in Kabul that Islamabad is still supporting the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has its own list of grievances that include the Afghan government’s lack of action against terrorist groups involved in cross-border attacks.