Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has sought Pakistan’s help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table for the peaceful settlement of over a decade old conflict in Afghanistan for the sake of peace and security in the region.
President Ghani was talking to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak during a one-to-one meeting at the Presidential Palace.
Mr Khattak’s two-day official visit to the Afghan capital saw him meeting Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister for Commerce & Industry Anwarul Haq Ahadi, Minister for Refugees Said Hussain Alimi Balkhi and Speaker of the National Parliament, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi.
The chief minister was leading a 26-member delegation comprising senior government officials, advisers and members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
The visit, first by a chief minister of the northwestern province, was part of the government’s efforts to create goodwill and explore possibilities of strengthening bilateral relations, particularly in trade and commerce.
“The main objective was to get to know each other and break the ice,” Mr Khattak told reporters.
The Afghan president urged Pakistan to expedite efforts to facilitate a dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, saying peace and security in the region was in the interest of the two countries.
Afghan officials say Pakistan had promised to facilitate negotiations between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban as early as the first week of March but the euphoria created by a strong commitment from Islamabad was now quickly turning into disappointment.
“I want strong and permanent friendship with Pakistan,” the chief minister quoted Mr Ghani as saying. “I saw a strong desire in the Afghan leadership for peace and friendship with Pakistan,” Mr Khattak said. “There is sincerity in Afghanistan and we should seize this opportunity.”
Mr Ghani in particular praised the reforms introduced by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and asked the chief minister to send him relevant documents to let him see if the same could be implemented in Afghanistan.
“The Afghan president means business and seemed serious in introducing a series of reforms to get rid of corruption and bring efficiency and discipline,” the chief minister said.
“Ninety per cent of the people serving now would land in jail when I introduce reforms,” Mr Ghani told the chief minister.
The chief minister also met Dr Abdullah, the CEO, and discussed a range of bilateral issues focusing on increasing trade and commerce between Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
JOINT WORKING GROUP: Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agreed to form a joint working group of officials from both sides as well as representatives from the trading and commerce community to identify areas for cooperation.
A preliminary meeting to identify areas for cooperation is likely to be convened next week, the chief minister said.
AFGHAN REFUGEES: During the visit, the Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation and foreign minister raised the issue of arrests and alleged harassment of undocumented Afghans.
The Afghan side sought time and further extension in stay of the registered refugees to enable Kabul to create the necessary infrastructure to absorb more than three millions nationals back home.
“We want all Afghans to return to their homeland and contribute in its development and reconstruction,” Salahuddin Rabbani said. But, he said, the Afghan government needed time to develop a strategy to absorb its returning citizens.
The chief minister held out the assurance that the Afghan refugees were their brothers and no highhandedness would be allowed against them. He, however, said that action was being taken against undocumented Afghans. He informed the Afghan leadership that he had offered suggestions to register the undocumented Afghans.
PRISONERS: The chief minister also raised the issue of Pakistani skilled workers held in various Afghan jails on various counts.
The Afghan minister said he would look into the matter. It was agreed to form a joint committee to look into the issue of prisoners of the two countries held in their respective jails.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2015