Track-2 dialogue: Robust Af-Pak links underlined
Members of the Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Committee issued the call at their third workshop in Karachi as part of Beyond Boundaries II, a track I.5/II dialogue series undertaken by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in partnership with Afghan counterpart Women Peace and Security Organization (WPSO).
The initiative is aimed to foster better understanding and cooperation between civil society members and address the bilateral trust deficit. Members of the committee also met Sindh Minister for Education and Literacy Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar.
Muzammil Shinwari, Afghanistan’s former deputy minister for trade and commerce, hailed Pakistan’s decision to extend the stay of Afghan refugees. “There is dire need to tackle the trust deficit and improve security,” he stressed.
Both countries should focus on improving bilateral trade, he suggested, noting a decline in transit trade. He also thanked the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for inviting Afghan players.
Advisor to Defense Ministry Wazhma Frogh believed media could play a key role, but it needed the right piece of information to properly serve its purpose of public information and improving public perceptions.
Parliamentarian Heelay Ershad remarked terrorism could not be combated with terrorism. She underlined the need for dialogue to bring about peace. Afghanistan would not support any initiative that was against its national security, said the MP.
Ex-ambassador of Sweden to Pakistan and Afghanistan Ann Wilkens, while chairing the meeting as a regional expert, welcomed initiatives for normalising bilateral relations.
Having served in both countries as ambassador, she said she equally loved Afghanistan and Pakistan and wanted to see them as friendly neighbours.
While appreciating efforts by the Afghan military to deter Taliban-linked violence, she feared a possible spring offensive and Daesh attacks in 2017.”
Another Afghan lawmaker, Khalid Pashtoon said the increasing momentum in Pakistan to make terrorist outfits weaker should also be commended. He added that there were no issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the people-to-people level.
He asked both countries to build on commonalities such as religion, cultural values, food, music, language etc. The main concerns on both sides should be considered to reach an acceptable conclusion.
Retired police officer Shoaib Suddle viewed the blame-game as the core issue, which other regional actors were trying to take advantage. “There is positive progress being made on the issue of border management.
“Border management becomes extremely important given the movement of goods and people between the two countries. This is also critical from the point of view of terrorists’ movement across the two countries through the porous border.”
Qazi Humayun, an ex-Pakistani ambassador, observed any dialogue on the future of Afghanistan should not be to its exclusion. Afghanistan’s participation in such meetings was in its best interest, he said, referred to the Russia-China-Pakistan huddle in Moscow.
The participants urged the Pakistani government to simplify the visa process for enhanced people-to-people contact and increase cooperation in the field of health, especially the issuance of visas for patients in emergency cases at Torkham and Spin Boldak.
More scholarships were urged for Afghan students for educational and vocational programmes. Provincial governments in Pakistan may consider offering academic scholarships for Afghan students.
For cooperation in the area of arts and culture, scholarships for artists were sought and exhibitions of famous trade brands proposed on both sides.
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