Pakistan proposes 4-point way forward as intra-Afghan talks begin in Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday proposed four-point way forward for the Afghan peace process that envisages continued support to Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process while respecting consensus emerging from intra-Afghan talks and ensuring violence never returns to the country nor the Afghan soil is used by terrorist outfits.

The strategy was proposed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who attended the opening ceremony of historic intra-Afghan talks in Doha through video link.

The landmark negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban were part of efforts seeking an end to the lingering conflict.

Pakistan has been instrumental in brokering first talks between the Taliban and the US and then intra-Afghan talks.

FM Qureshi proposed following four-pronged strategy:

To continue to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process while respecting the consensus that emerges from intra-Afghan negotiations.
To ensure that Afghanistan neither witnesses the violent days of the past nor becomes a space for elements who would harm others beyond its borders.
To deepen and sustain economic engagement with Afghanistan for its reconstruction and economic development.
To ensure a well-resourced, time-bound return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.
“We meet today to mark historic occasion, when our Afghan brethren take a major step forward in their long quest for peace,” he said at the outset of his address.

He was optimistic of the peace talks hoping that a long phase of tribulations seems ending. “A new dawn is upon us.”

He highlighted that the journey was not easy since there were many obstacles and spoilers who wanted to disrupt the process.

“Arriving at this inflection point has been an accomplishment, and this success belongs, first and foremost, to the Afghans,” he remarked.

Highlighting Pakistan’s role, Qureshi said Islamabad had walked along-side in every possible way, by encouraging reduction in violence and by urging dialogue and negotiations.

“Pakistan has fully facilitated the process that culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 and has reached this juncture,” he noted.

“Commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations, today, is the fruit of our combined efforts,” Qureshi said.

He said Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan had long maintained that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. A political solution is the only way forward, he added.

“We are gratified that our perspective is now widely shared across the international community… we are also gratified that we have fulfilled our part of the responsibility.”

It is now for the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.”

He said the forthcoming negotiations were for the Afghans to decide about their future. The Afghans alone must be the masters of their destiny, without outside influence or interference.

He, however, warned spoilers, from within and from outside, will pose formidable challenges. Constant vigilance will be required to guard against their machinations.

“We hope all sides will honour their respective commitments, persevere in the face of all challenges and setbacks, and remain unflinchingly committed to achieving a positive outcome.”

Besides Afghanistan, Pakistan was the country that has suffered the most from the Afghan conflict, he pointed out.

“Over the past 40 years, we have endured terrorist attacks, loss of precious lives, mass population displacements, instability at the borders, and huge economic costs.”

“But we have persevered in the face of all difficulties and negativity.”

He said at this historic juncture, it was imperative that the mistakes of the past were not repeated. The Afghan people must not be abandoned, as happened before. The progress achieved must not be frittered away.

A peaceful and stable Afghanistan will bring new opportunities for the progress and prosperity of the Afghan people. It will also open new vistas of cooperation and connectivity in the region and beyond.

“At this moment of hope, I reassure our Afghan brethren that Pakistan will always be in full support and solidarity with them as they continue their momentous journey on the path of peace, security and development.”

Pakistan will always support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours, he said.

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