ISLAMABAD: Experts from Pakistan and Afghanistan have welcomed the recent improvement in ties between the two neighbours while recommending a host of measures, including avoiding resorting to blame game and knee-jerk reactions, to consolidate the relations.
Recommendations were formulated by experts who met in Kabul on Sunday at the end of the third meeting of the Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Committee’s (PAJC) ‘Beyond Boundaries Phase III’, which is an initiative of the Islamabad-based think-tank, the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).
The committee held its first and second meetings in Kabul on December 15 last year and Islamabad on February 26 this year, respectively.
Topics of the bilateral PAJC dialogue included interactive discussions on peace and security, positive bilateral developments, revival of formal contacts under the Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAAPS), a review of the status of Afghan refugees, bilateral and transit trade and the role of the media on both sides of the border in promoting better bilateral relations and preventing misperceptions and negative narratives.
Members of the PAJC were briefed by Haroon Rashid Sherzad, the senior advisor to the National Security Advisor (NSA), on APAAPS framework, Khyber Farahi, the senior advisor to the president on Migration and Social Development, on the latest refugee situation.
PAJC members unanimously supported and welcomed the recent high-level bilateral visits and the recently concluded APAAPS framework.
The groups also welcomed commitment by both governments to refrain from resorting to blame games as they pursue the new dialogue framework.
The PAJC groups also agreed to urge both governments to take the following steps: grant access to respective prisoners and sign an agreement on mutual consular access, at the earliest, sign an agreement for repatriation of each other’s citizens and prisoners, dignified and honorable treatment to each other’s citizens at entry points, restrain government spokespersons from making knee-jerk statements in tense situations involving the two countries.
It was suggested that given the sensitivities, both sides should avoid instantaneously reacting in case of any untoward incident, work on a dignified and viable plan for repatriating Afghan refugees, hold APTTCA meeting as soon as possible to improve the transit trade framework, work towards ease-of-doing-business at international crossing points i.e. rationalizing regulations, procedures, as well as upgradation of physical infrastructure and services for traders, clearance mechanisms, and expansion of entry and exit points to facilitate growing human and cargo traffic via the main crossing points, facilitate media interactions and exchanges, disseminate through the media the progress being made under APAAPS, help shape/correct negative narratives about each other, and encourage audio-visual content exchange among public sector media organisations.