Gilani backs Afghan-owned peace parleys
ISLAMABAD (PAN): Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has said peace in Afghanistan is critical for security in the country, saying an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process remains his government’s priority.
Speaking to a delegation of Afghan Senators led by Fazal-i-Hadi Muslimyar, Gilani said Pakistan always supported President Hamid Karzai’s peace efforts. He emphasised parliamentary exchanges to strengthen brotherly relations and people-to-people contacts between the neighbours.
The Pakistani leader said the exchange of visits by parliamentarians was essential to enhance bilateral relations, insisting Islamabad had been making sincere efforts toward improving ties with Kabul.
Pakistan extended full cooperation to the Afghan team that visited Islamabad to investigate the assassination of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, the top peace negotiator, who was killed in a suicide attack at his Kabul residence on Sept. 20.
On bilateral trade, Gilani said Pakistan was committed to the construction of the Torkham-Jalalabad road. He also refererd to the 2,000 scholarships offered by his country to Afghan students and agreed to increase the number at the request of the visiting delegation leader.
Earlier, Pakistani Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naik said Islamabad attached great importance to its relations with Kabul because they shared a common religion, culture, history and geographical proximity.
Fazal-i-Hadi Muslimyar said the centuries-old commonalities between the two countries brought closer the two nations in their quest for peace and prosperity. He said President Karzai’s participation in the oath-taking ceremony of his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari manifested the importance the Afghans attached to Pakistan.
The Afghan delegation includes Musa Arifi, Deputy Head of Mission, Senator Lotfullah Baba, Senator Gul Ahmad Azimi, Senator Darakhail Mangal, Senator Arifullah Pashtoon, Senator Hazrat Shah Nuristani, Senator Mohammad Daud Ghafari, Senator Ehsanullah Bayat and Senator Hadayatullah Ahmadzai.
Eng. Shakatullah, minister for SAFRON, Hina Rabbani Khar, minister for foreign affairs, Senator Hafiz Rasheed Ahmad, senator-in-waiting, foreign secretary, secretary senate and other officials were present at the meeting.
On the occasion, Naek said an independent, peaceful and stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest. “Peace, security and stability in Afghanistan have a vital link with peace and tranquility in Pakistan”, he said.
He said a pro-active role of parliamentarians was essential to work out and implement effective strategies for eradication of terrorism. “Pakistan believes in a policy of non-interference as the cornerstone of its foreign policy.”
Naek hoped the Afghan parliamentary delegation’s visit would further improve and strengthen ties between the two countries. He noted with satisfaction that both countries had witnessed improvement in their ties since establishment of a democratic government in Pakistan.
The Afghan delegation leader, Fazl-i-Hadi Muslimyar, hoped their bilateral relations would be strengthened further as a result of the visit. Challenges facing the two countries needed to be converted into opportunities in order to move forward on the road to progress, he said.
He also expressed his condolences over the loss of lives in a recent cross-border attack by NATO-led forces in Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal region.
The Afghan delegation arrived in Islamabad on a four-day official visit at the invitation of Naek, who hosted a reception in honour of the visiting team.
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