Afghan peace negotiator urges new era in relations with Pakistan

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation said the two countries need better prospects as both have paid a high price by facing various terror groups that are still acting as spoilers.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (left) speaks with Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah during an event at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad on September 29.(AFP)
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (left) speaks with Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah during an event at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad on September 29.(AFP)
Updated on Sep 29, 2020 07:00 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Islamabad | ByImtiaz Ahmad

Abdullah Abdullah, the visiting chief of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team, told Pakistan on Tuesday that the time has come for the neighbouring countries to shun the suspicion, “stale rhetoric” and tired conspiracy theories that have dogged past relations.

In a speech at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation said the two countries need better prospects as both have paid a high price by facing various terror groups that are still acting as spoilers.

“We need to cooperate with other like-minded countries against such elements,” he noted. “We do not want a terrorist footprint in our country or to allow any entity to pose a threat to any other nation.”

“We are facing series of threats and challenges that include various shades of terrorism, extremism and intolerance, and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

“The time is now for both our nations to make a strategic detour, define a new vision, address outstanding issues as well as our shared interests, realise that peace and stability in Afghanistan, or any country in our South and Central Asian geography for that matter, can have far-reaching constructive consequences and ripple effects, by setting course on a new path towards neighbourliness and greater regional economic integration.”

“This is my first visit to Pakistan after 12 years. I and my accompanying delegation want to take this opportunity to thank the civilian and military leadership, the civil society, including Pakistan’s vibrant intellectual community, but particularly all citizens of Pakistan from all walks of life for their warm welcome and hospitality.”

He said that Pakistan played a critical role in facilitating this talks, and has even a more important role to play hereon to support the process through a successful end and standing with the people and government of Afghanistan in building a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood.

He said that there is a need to constantly remind ourselves that Afghanistan today is not the country of 1996 or 2001. It is a young, diverse, connected nation, eager to freely decide its own future form of government corresponding to its unity and diversity. This transformed nation also want to preserve its core accomplishments including the rights and liberties of all men and women of all communities and groups in Afghanistan.

“We expect the intra-Afghan process to reach an agreement on rules and procedure followed by an agenda. Meanwhile, we call on all sides to agree to seriously reduce violence and protect civilians from further harm as we aim for a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”

The council led by Abdullah represents the Afghan government in historic peace negotiations with the Taliban which began in Qatar on September 12. Those talks represent the most serious effort yet at ending decades of war in Afghanistan that followed the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled its Taliban government, which was then hosting al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who planned the September 11 terror attacks. The terrorist leader was later located in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad and killed by US marines in a raid in 2011.

The Afghan-Taliban talks come after a deal signed in February between the US and the Taliban. That aims to allow the US to withdraw from Afghanistan and end the longest military engagement in American history.

Many Taliban leaders have lived in Pakistan since the 1980s. In those years, they were part of the Afghan mujahedeen, allies of the US in ending the 10-year occupation of the country by the Soviet Union.

Pakistan has denied giving sanctuary to Taliban members following their ouster in 2001. However, both Washington and Kabul routinely accuse Islamabad of giving them a safe haven, citing the Taliban’s long ties with Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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