ISLAMABAD: Despite several past incidents that have intensified the climate of mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq sounded a reconciliatory tone and said both sides “want to improve bilateral relations”.
“There is a desire on the part of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve bilateral relations,” the speaker said while talking to the media on his return from Afghanistan.
Sadiq led an unprecedented 17-member delegation of top leaders from both houses of parliament to Afghanistan on the invitation of the Afghan president with an aim to lower the tensions between the two neighbouring countries.
The visit came after nearly 150 Afghan soldiers had been killed in a national army base in Mazar-i-Sharif by Taliban suicide attackers disguising as army personnel.
Earlier, a high-level Pakistan Army delegation, headed by Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Bilal Akbar, visited Afghanistan and conveyed condolences on behalf of the COAS over the loss of innocent lives in the terrorist attack and expressed solidarity with Afghan forces and people.
Describing talks with the Afghan leadership as ‘very’ positive, the speaker said the visit of the parliamentary delegation was aimed at reviving contacts between the two neighbouring countries.
“Peace, security and prosperity of both the countries are interlinked,” said Sadiq, sounding confident that high-level exchanges between the two countries would continue in the future as well “in order to promote better understanding of each other’s views”.
The speaker said the parliamentary delegation held meetings over many hours with the Afghan leadership, including Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, in a very ‘cordial environment’.
The delegation, which had representation from every province and political party, expressed the hope of promoting exemplary friendship and restoring the dialogue process between the two countries, he said.
He added that Abdullah Abdullah and other Afghan leadership would soon visit Pakistan, expressing the hope that their visits would help revive the dialogue process from where it had broken.
Sadiq said the ISI director-general would also visit Afghanistan next week and hold meetings in which matters of mutual interests would be discussed.
He also shed light on his visit to Iran and said the country had expressed desire to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “Iran’s Chabahar and our Gwadar have been declared as sister ports.”
The speaker said the issue of Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif leading the alliance of Islamic countries was also discussed during the visit. “We assured Iran that its interests will be taken care of.”
Sadiq; however, said that the issue should not be given a sectarian colour.
Earlier, when the parliamentary delegation was preparing to leave Kabul after a hectic three-day tour to the Afghan capital, President Ashraf Ghani telephoned the speaker and thanked him for his bold decision of taking the ‘first step’ to break the ice in the relations between the two countries, according to a message received from Afghanistan.
President Ghani also asked the speaker to convey his message of gratitude to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the latter’s sincere efforts in bridging the differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Lauding the acumen shown by the parliamentary leadership of Pakistan, President Ghani termed the visit of the high-level parliamentary delegation a “new chapter in the bilateral relations of the two countries”.
He also commended the speaker for his mediatory role and hoped that the visit would pave the way for lasting peace and friendship between the two countries.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also assured Speaker Ayaz Sadiq of their utmost cooperation in cementing cordiality between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are twin brothers and will remain so for all times to come,” remarked Karzai.
The delegation, beside the speaker, included Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, Federal Ministers General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Mir Hasil Bazinjo and Akram Durrani; Chairman of the NA Foreign Relations Committee Sardar Awais Leghari, Chief of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party Mehmood Khan Achakzai, parliamentary leaders Syed Naveed Qamar from the PPP, ANP’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, PTI’s Shafqat Mehmood, Jamat-e-Islami’s Sahibzada Tariqullah, Qaumi Watan Party’s Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and FATA leader G G Jamal.