Foreign Affairs adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, Sartaj Aziz, said on Wednesday that Islamabad needs to tighten up on border management with Afghanistan so as to “prevent the movement of terrorists and miscreants.”
He said challenges in Afghanistan have multiplied since January 2015 and that the deteriorating security situation is affecting the entire region.
Addressing a conference in Islamabad, organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), and entitled "Achieving Peace in Afghanistan: Challenges & Prospects", Aziz said: “The persistent conflict and the failure of military strategy to bring peace has taken a heavy toll on both Afghan security forces and the civilians.
“The lack of progress on peace process, emerging threat of Daesh, drugs trafficking, the resettlement of returning refugees are some of the issues that have been making it difficult for Afghanistan to create a stable country. This situation is affecting not only Afghanistan's neighbors but the entire region,” he said.
He said that these issues were also affecting relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan “despite our centuries old bonds of common culture, heritage, traditions and religion.”
Aziz stated that a peaceful prosperous Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest and that they believed a politically negotiated settlement was the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan.
“Towards this end, Pakistan has been making sincere efforts for facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. Our consistent and clear message to the Taliban has been that they must give up violence and join the peace process. Our efforts led to Murree talks in July, 2015 and the setting up of Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in December, 2015. However, both times the process was undermined by forced who were against reconciliation.”
He said that terrorism was a major threat to regional and international peace and that Pakistan had also suffered at the hands of terrorism over the past few years but that achievements have been made in their efforts to eliminate terrorist organizations from around the country.
“The tribal areas particularly North Waziristan have been cleared. Any remnants of the dismantled groups are now being targeted through Operation Rad-ul-Fasad. Our success in counter-terrorism has been recognized by U.S Congressional leaders and military commanders who visited the Pakistan-Afghanistan border including North Waziristan.”
He said that in line with this, Pakistan needs to ramp up border management with Afghanistan.
According to him the aim of this is to prevent the movement of terrorists.
“This would prevent the movement of terrorists and miscreants and would help address the Afghan allegations regarding TTA (Tehrik-i-Taliban Afghanistan) and Haqqani networks presence in Pakistan. We have also been stressing upon the Afghan government to take action against the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) and JuA (Jamaat-ur-Ahrar) sanctuaries in Afghanistan who have been crossing through the porous border and launching terrorist attacks in Pakistan.”
Meaningful engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan was of key importance to Islamabad, he said adding that in recent weeks a number of high-profile delegations have visited Kabul as part of efforts to strengthen engagement between the two neighbors.
He also outlined the assistance Pakistan has provided to Afghanistan including transit trade facilities through its ports under the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), the housing of refugees and development projects Islamabad has undertaken in Afghanistan.
“I would also like to highlight that connectivity with Afghanistan is an important element on our agenda. Exploitation of Afghanistan's vast mineral resources need rail-road connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan so that the transportation of the extracted minerals to the outer world could be realized.
“Projects including Peshawar-Kabul motorway and Quetta-Kandahar Rail link are in (the) pipeline which would only come to fruition if an environment of peace and stability is achieved. Moreover, energy cooperation through projects like CASA-1000 and TAPI will bring huge dividends for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region,” he said.
In conclusion, Aziz stated that “the future of the region lies in peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Pakistan remains committed to the goal of lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region.”