ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday reiterated that peace in Afghanistan was imperative for regional connectivity and Pakistan was making sincere efforts for the success of the on-going Afghan peace process.
Addressing the Seventh Round of Pakistan-Afghanistan Track-II Dialogue in Islamabad, Qureshi stressed the need for both Pakistan and Afghanistan to find political will for resolving mutual differences at their own, without involvement of third party.
He said that Pakistan is helping the United States in bringing peace to Afghanistan but the Afghan people must decide their future. He invited Afghanistan to build a new future and make a new beginning.
"It's time for Pakistan and Afghanistan to build bridges, not burn. We need to sit, ponder and carve a future together," he said in his address at the 'Track-II Bilateral Dialogue on Afghanistan and Pakistan', attended by academics and intellectuals representing both the counties.
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"Pakistan-Afghanistan Track-II Dialogue between is an important forum as it is our priority to have cordial ties with Afghanistan," Qureshi said. "I have … held meetings with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad to find a way for peace in the neighbouring country."
According to Qureshi, Pakistan played its due role in the development of Afghanistan and pledged projects worth $1 billion. "Afghanistan is Pakistan's major trading partner, and the two countries do trade through rail and road."
He stressed that Pakistan and Afghanistan needed to understand the shared challenges and find common solutions. "Do the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan need a third party to tell what is in their interest? Can't we decide for ourselves? Sooner we realise, the better it would be," he said.
Qureshi expressed Pakistan's sincere desire to ensure peace in Afghanistan. "Pakistan would continue to play its role in good faith and as shared responsibility and calls upon all stakeholders to contribute sincerely to make the peace process successful," he said.
"Today in Pakistan, we have a government in place, extending hand of friendship to their Afghan brothers. This is a historic moment. If we miss this opportunity, the future generations would curse the governments of both sides," he said.
As a foreign minister, Qureshi said, he would like Pakistan and Afghanistan to see their people play cricket together, witness the energy flow from north to south and enjoy the benefits of new economic corridor. "We have seen happiness and sorrows together.
Now, let us build a new trust and a new beginning to fight poverty and corruption together," he said.
Qureshi said history showed that all super powers failed whenever tried to overcome the dignified people of Afghans. He termed intra-Afghan dialogue essential for sustainable peace in Afghanistan and stressed that it was only up to the people of Afghanistan to decide about their future.
He regretted the postponement of Doha dialogue between the Afghan delegation and Taliban, which was due to be held earlier this month. He said that Pakistan believed that regional countries had a critical role in Afghanistan's stability.
The foreign minister mentioned that in order to solidify regional cooperation and develop consensus, he visited China, Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Qatar and United Arab Emirates to hold several rounds of consultations on the on-going peace process.
He mentioned the intrinsic linkage between the economies of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with former being the largest trading partner and largest importer of Afghan imports. Pakistan is also part of multiple bilateral and regional connectivity initiatives like Peshawar-Kabul Motorway, Torkham-Jalalabad dual carriageway, Chaman-Qandhar railway, TAPI and CASSA energy initiatives, he added.
He said Pakistan was providing assistance to Afghanistan in reconstruction of various projects, including building of hospitals, highways and schools. The recent joint inauguration of Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in Kabul on April 20th built with $245 million was presented to the Afghan government and the people as a gift from Pakistan, he added.
He said over 50,000 Afghan youth studied in Pakistan over the years, in addition to 6,000 fully-funded scholarships offered to Afghan students and 1,000 seats dedicated for women to encourage female education.