ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Saturday told visiting US Senator John McCain that a stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and that better relations between the two countries hold key to regional peace and security.
Besides matters of mutual interest and regional security with particular reference to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s successes in war on terror and need for an effective border management mechanism along Pak-Afghan border to check illegal movement on either side of the border were also discussed during a meeting with US congressional delegation led by Chairman of US Senate Arms Services Committee Senator McCain who called on the army chief at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Donnelly were also part of the delegation.
The army chief also apprised the visiting delegation regarding security challenges faced by Pakistan and the country’s contribution towards regional stability and global peace. While acknowledging the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Senator McCain said Pakistan Army’s achievements in counter terrorism operations are phenomenal and reflect Pakistan’s determination to eliminate terrorism. The senator said both Pakistan and US need to cement relations in all dimensions and must strive for greater coordination for optimal deliverance of peace dividend in the region.
Earlier, the army chief met Special Representative Richard Olson and discussed matters relating to regional security. Olson also met Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and was briefed about creation of a high-level consultation mechanism between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address border management and other security issues. The US ambassador appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and stated that the US supported Pakistan’s efforts on border management. Emphasising the early repatriation of Afghan refugees, the foreign secretary said Pakistan wanted the return of refugees to take place with dignity and honour. The international community including the US and UNHCR should lend their due support to these efforts, he added.
On Afghan reconciliation, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) as an effective forum to facilitate Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process. Olson also called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and lauded him over his recent economic achievements, including record tax revenue collection and the highest level of forex reserves. While discussing matters relating to the Afghan refugees, Olson said Pakistan’s contribution in hosting the Afghan refugees was acknowledged and commended by the international community. He said safe, early and permanent repatriation of refugees to their homeland was a priority. He expressed support for efforts aimed at strengthening Pak-Afghan bilateral relations.
Ishaq Dar said it was imperative to agree on a detailed roadmap for safe and honourable repatriation of Afghan refugees.