-Security issues should not be allowed to impact the flow of trade, says Afghan Senator Gulalai Noor Safi
ISLAMABAD: Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Member of National Assembly (MNA) Andleeb Abbas has said that people to people linkages across the border are significantly good but political will has been missing at the state level for long.
Speaking at a high-level Pakistan-Afghanistan Track 1.5/II dialogue titled Beyond Boundaries convened by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) here on Wednesday, she urged both sides to focus on the positives to mitigate negativity.
She stated that the power of the people is always more than the people in power; hence, at the people’s level, there must be continued efforts towards peace and development.
Separately, a 13-member high-level Afghan delegation, headed by former Member of Afghan Parliament (MAP) Khalid Pashtoon, landed in Islamabad on Tuesday to discuss bilateral relations with the Pakistani delegation of 13 members in a bid to devise recommendations to present to their governments.
Khalid Pashtoon urged all the delegates to stop digging into the blame game of the past and invited both sides to think of solutions of peaceful coexistence for the current and future generations.
At the end of the day-long dialogue, which was the 17th meeting of the Track II initiative, both groups formulated policy recommendations which will be shared with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
Afghan Senator and Member of Afghanistan Cricket Board, Gulalai Noor Safi, stated that to further improve bilateral relations, security issues should not be allowed to impact the flow of trade, as seen in border closures, as it makes both the Pakistani and Afghan traders suffer and, consequently, makes the people in general bear the brunt.
MNA Mehnaz Akbar suggested creating a bilateral parliamentary group to continue debating issues that affect people on both sides.
Member of High Peace Council Laila Jaffari, from the Afghan delegation, affirmed the need to push both governments to implement the decisions taken under the APAPPS framework. She stated that the government of Pakistan should pressurise the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Afghan government who are the true representatives of Afghan people.
Lt General (r) Asif Yasin, former Defense Secretary, responded to the request in a positive manner and apprised the Afghan delegates that Pakistan is already using its full leverage in the Afghan peace talks. The positive outcomes are visible; regional and international powers are also appreciating Pakistan’s role in lubricating the peace process, he explained. However, he maintained that Pakistan can only use its influence but does not have a decisive position.
Khalid Pashtoon shared that some comments from the opposition leader in the National Assembly of Pakistan have hurt the feelings of the Afghan people. He requested Pakistani politicians to try avoiding linking the Kashmir situation to Afghanistan.
Member of Afghan Parliament Kamal Safi was of the view that keeping the Torkham border open 24/7 will not help Afghans until Pakistan’s visa policy is humanized. Visa regulations and procedures will need to change to maximize the positive impacts of the Torkham crossing point to be open round the clock.
Pakistani delegate and senior journalist and analyst, Tahir Khan, inquired that while Pakistan has taken measures for keeping the Torkham border open 24/7, have the Afghan authorities taken any corresponding measures to facilitate the better movement of people and the greater flow of all goods?
Former Ambassador Asif Durrani commented that strategic depth was a nonsensical idea. For now, there is no such thing; if it ever was, it is long dead, he said.
Former DG ISPR and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Major General (r) Athar Abbas, seconded the argument and asked the Afghan delegates for one valid reason how an unstable Afghanistan would benefit Pakistan.
A stable Afghanistan has a positive spill-over effect for Pakistan and Pakistan wants nothing but an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process for the people of Afghanistan.
Former Governor of Nangarhar Saleem Khan Kunduzi remarked that the top priority for the entire Afghan nation, for now, is only peace; but it depends on the outcome of Doha talks. “Let us keep the fingers crossed. As civil society members, he said, we should all be open to certain ground realities but move forward,” he concluded.