Home / Asia / Afghanistan / Pak must make every effort to facilitate Afghan peace process :NA Body
????????????????????????????????????

Pak must make every effort to facilitate Afghan peace process :NA Body

ISLAMABAD- The National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended that the government must be a public recognition by Pakistan the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan has to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led and the GoP must make every effort to facilitate this peace process. Though the current Quadrilateral Coordination peace process is losing its momentum in view of the recent developments in Afghanistan, However, the Committee recommends and welcomes GoP’s commitment and determination to make this process more effective. As the QCG offers the best guarantee to find a workable solution to the ongoing afghan armed conflict. Every possible forum including, inter alia, the QCG needs to be used to demonstrate a genuine will on the part of the GoP to take the peace process forward.

The GoP must recognize and convince all stakeholders that for peace talks to move forward, a conducive environment for these talks has to be created. This includes, inter alia, the cessation of hostile propaganda and violence on both sides.

Pakistan must convince the other members of the QCG to pursue a framework of tangible concessions and avoid setting preconditions before talks commence. 23rd February marked a noticeable shift in the Afghan view of Pakistan. A Roadmap with no preconditions was agreed to focusing on three-phases: Pre-negotiation phase where Afghan government needs to prepare incentives that will bring Taliban into the process. The actual negotiation phase and, if the negotiations succeed then the third or post-negotiation phase on how to enforce what has been agreed to.

The GoP, while maintaining its commitment to the Afghan peace process, must ensure that international expectations from Pakistan in this context are kept at a rational level. The GoP should also have a contingency plan in case this peace and reconciliation process fails so as to prevent or minimize the negative fallout on Pakistan of this failure – both internationally and at the national level.

For Pakistan the major priority has to be reduction of the trust deficit with Afghanistan, as movement towards reconciliation has to come from both sides simultaneously. Despite historical and cultural ties, the trust deficit on both sides has been a major impediment in taking Pakistan-Afghanistan relations further. This trust deficit needs to be addressed by the GoP by encouraging exchanges at three essential levels: the official level; the institutional level; and the people to people level.

Pak-Afghan relations can be improved, the Committee Chairman called on the sub-committee to deliver its recommendations and how they can be effectively implemented to ensure that both countries join the road to prosperity hand in hand.

According to NA committee recommendations the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are bound by strong bonds of a shared history, religion, culture, ethnicity, language, traditions and kinship. Millions of people in Pakistan trace their lineage to Afghanistan and Pakhtuns on both sides of the border which serve as a strong binding force between the two countries. It is unfortunate that both sovereign countries have been unable to use these bonds to build a strong and stable relationship. Since 1947, when Afghanistan opposed Pakistan’s entry into the UN, Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have been tenuous, often hostile and mired in suspicion and mistrust.

GoP’s traditional policy of seeing Afghanistan as its strategic depth and Afghanistan giving vent to irredentist claims have also prevented the two neighbors from improving ties especially in times of chaos and violence when cooperation would have helped improve the internal dynamics of each state as well as providing for a better external environment on their shared borders.

Today, in 2016, both countries are trying to consolidate and build on their convergences and work to reduce and, ultimately, to eliminate the divergences that create mistrust between them. The leadership on both sides realizes there is a historic opportunity to work together for the shared goals of peace and prosperity.

GoP has sought to alter its approach towards Afghanistan as it has seen the violent blowback in Pakistan of Afghanistan’s turbulent history with the Soviet intervention, a civil war, a drought and then the events following 9/11. Present day GoP and its leadership’s approach towards Afghanistan is premised on the foundation that a peaceful, stable, united and sovereign Afghanistan is vital for Pakistan’s interests. There is now a national consensus in Pakistan on this. To push this cooperative approach further the Committee has recommended the following:

There is a need to build a strong and stable relationship with Afghanistan based on mutual understanding and respect. The committee advise the Government must realize that as long as there is violence in Afghanistan, there can be no peace and stability in Pakistan as there is interdependency in these goals. In the current situation, in the absence of a stable Pak-Afghan relationship, the ongoing government campaign against terrorism and militancy, including the National Action Plan spearheaded by Zarb-i-Azb will not achieve the desired results.
To lay the foundations of a strong relationship, the GoP must clearly demonstrate that Pakistan recognizes Afghanistan as an independent and sovereign state.

The GoP must continue, despite impediments that may arise, to uphold its commitment to the principles agreed to between Pakistan and Afghanistan as the foundation for their relations.
Despite recent deterioration in relations, it is recommended that the GoP continue its existing policy of refraining to react aggressively to negative statements and allegations made by the Afghan side. Being the larger neighbor and keeping in mind its own national interests, GoP must show patience and develop goodwill in the face of a negative narrative flowing from the other side. The GoP has to keep in mind that Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani has little space in which to maneuver both politically and in terms of security so it has to show patience for long-term sustenance. The GoP has to work diplomatically between the different power centers that prevail at present in Afghanistan.

There must be a public recognition by Pakistan that the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan has to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led and the GoP must make every effort to facilitate this peace process. Though the current Quadrilateral Coordination peace process is losing its momentum in view of the recent developments in Afghanistan, However, the Committee recommends and welcomes GoP’s commitment and determination to make this process more effective. As the QCG offers the best guarantee to find a workable solution to the ongoing afghan armed conflict. Every possible forum including, inter alia, the QCG needs to be used to demonstrate a genuine will on the part of the GoP to take the peace process forward.

The GoP must recognize and convince all stakeholders that for peace talks to move forward, a conducive environment for these talks has to be created. This includes, inter alia, the cessation of hostile propaganda and violence on both sides.

Pakistan must convince the other members of the QCG to pursue a framework of tangible concessions and avoid setting preconditions before talks commence. 23rd February marked a noticeable shift in the Afghan view of Pakistan. A Roadmap with no preconditions was agreed to focusing on three-phases: Pre-negotiation phase where Afghan government needs to prepare incentives that will bring Taliban into the process. The actual negotiation phase and, if the negotiations succeed then the third or post-negotiation phase on how to enforce what has been agreed to.

The GoP, while maintaining its commitment to the Afghan peace process, must ensure that international expectations from Pakistan in this context are kept at a rational level. The GoP should also have a contingency plan in case this peace and reconciliation process fails so as to prevent or minimize the negative fallout on Pakistan of this failure – both internationally and at the national level.

For Pakistan the major priority has to be reduction of the trust deficit with Afghanistan, as movement towards reconciliation has to come from both sides simultaneously. Despite historical and cultural ties, the trust deficit on both sides has been a major impediment in taking Pakistan-Afghanistan relations further. This trust deficit needs to be addressed by the GoP by encouraging exchanges at three essential levels: the official level; the institutional level; and the people to people level.

A critical component in reducing the trust deficit is the regular exchange between the parliamentarians of the two countries. This approach will help change mindsets and perceptions in both countries. Friendship groups, involving the national and provincial assemblies, will help build up constituencies for greater understanding. The recent visit by the President of the Wolesi Jirga to Islamabad along with a delegation of Afghan parliamentarians had a positive effect.

Must be focus on enhanced economic cooperation and continuing to give economic support to Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts by providing bilateral assistance in sectors such as education, health, training and infrastructure development.

Must be increase educational scholarships to Afghan students and access to training facilities for Afghan civil servants, doctors, engineers and teachers as well as placement of Afghan cadets at the PMA.

All hurdles in medical tourism must be removed as Pakistan presently receives almost 70 % of Afghans seeking medical treatment abroad.

The use of the media by both countries for image building of the other is a critical tool in reducing the trust deficit. Media exchanges are one way to improve projection of the other’s image. Another way would be for GoP to offer on-job training/internship in media houses.

Border Management:
In many ways, this is a critical issue for Pakistan especially since the border is porous and cannot be fenced for a variety of reasons including the terrain. The border situation at present is precarious. For GoP under international law the Durand Line is the international border but to raise this sensitive issue at this juncture would be counterproductive and serve no purpose. Also, while it is a politically sensitive and emotive issue in Afghanistan, due to the weakness of the claim, the Committee feels Afghanistan will not seriously raise this issue at any relevant international forum.

‘What is required is effective border management as this is the key to curbing militancy and terrorism as well as other illegal cross-border activities like human trafficking, illegal trade, narcotics and arms smuggling. This would require some formalization and documentation of easement rights, effective monitoring and control over official entry/exit points using automated radar sensors, satellite programs and other electronic means of surveillance of the numerous unofficial entry/exit points. There is a need for greater cooperation between the military and intelligence sharing setup of both countries through greater interaction and joint efforts for effective border management.

There used to be a Trilateral Commission for border management between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US. That should have now mutated into a Bilateral Commission but it has not. The Committee recommends the formation of a Bilateral Commission for border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will also help in the economic cooperation measures listed below.

Efforts must be undertaken to strengthen tribes on both sides of the border and evolve a mechanism of border jirgas whereby tribes on each side work jointly to check unwanted cross-border movement and other illegal activities such as the drug trade.

There is a need to increase the strength of the Frontier Corps to tackle the challenges presented by the border and for ensuring more effective border management.

Economic Cooperation :
The Committee stressed that the government should enhance economic cooperation with Afghanistan in all spheres of mutual interest. Economic cooperation will be directly tied to trust deficit.

The joint projects on energy, communications and regional connectivity identified by the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission include, inter alia: i) the 300 megawatt Kunar River Hydropower project; ii) Rail links between Peshawar and Jalalabad, Chaman and Spinboldak; iii) the Torkham-Jalalabad Dual Carriageway; and iv) the Peshawar – Kabul Motorway must all be implemented and expedited. In addition to these projects, the two countries must work together to identify and implement further projects of mutual benefit.

A Land Port Authority is advised to be formulated which should be designated to improve the border post infrastructure through efficient trade management and effective custom clearance. Committee suggests that a modern, well equipped Custom Border Complex should be constructed at all agreed upon border posts for bilateral trade (Torkham, Chaman-Spin Boldak, and Ghulam Khan). The proposed Customs Border Complex should meet international standards encompassing all the modern facilities. It is recommended that government of Pakistan must engage the private sector in selected aspects of financing, infrastructure, technology and regulation for improving Pakistan’s logistics performance (freight transportation ,quality logistics services , track and trace consignments, timeliness of shipments , customs and border management clearance process)

Water scarcity is a serious threat for both countries and the GoP must engage the Afghan government with the view to entering a Water Accord and formulating proposals for a common grid and joint hydro projects aimed at water preservation, power generation, flood protection and the overall greater and more productive utilization of natural resources.

Mineral deposits in the areas adjoining the Pak-Afghan border are reported to examine vast quantities. The GoP should cooperate with the Afghan government to develop an economically viable mechanism for exploration of these resources.

The Committee welcomed the decision by both countries to increase the current bilateral trade from $2.25 billion to $ 5 billion by the end of 2017. With an increase in trade relations being overwhelmingly in Pakistan’s favour, the GoP must take all steps to achieve this ambitious target.

The GoP must work with the Afghan government to introduce a relaxed visa regime that allows multiple entries for citizens of each country as well as prioritizing business visas.

Formalizing and Strengthening of Banking Sector on both sides to avoid illegal hawala transactions.

Implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA):
There is a difference in the interpretation of the APTTA by Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latter feels full implementation requires Pakistan to give access to Afghanistan for its transit trade into India through the land route of Wagah. The GoP needs to engage the Afghan government on this issue relating to the APTTA on two main counts: One, highlight the fact that international law on trade access for landlocked states focuses on ports access – which Pakistan is already providing. Two, explain how Pakistan’s security issues with India make it impossible for Islamabad to cede to the Afghan demand for access to the Wagah land route. While GoP cannot compromise on its security issues, other legitimate grievances raised by Kabul such as delays, transportation times from Karachi to Kabul, customs clearance, limited crossing points and other bottlenecks need to be adequately and effectively addressed by the GoP.

Refugees issue:Linked to effective border management is the need to evolve a clear-cut refugee policy on the Afghan refugees present in Pakistan. There are more than 3 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan. A major issue for Pakistan is that the refugee camps have become havens for militants and criminal elements. So the issue of the refugee camps is not simply a humanitarian issue but a security issue also. The GoP must work with the Afghan government and the international community especially those organizations dealing with refugee issues, to prepare a comprehensive roadmap for the repatriation of the Afghan refugees and enacting a comprehensive legislation, which enables it to document persons crossing the Durand Line.Such a roadmap must include provision of sufficient funds for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the refugees in Afghanistan as well as creating effective pull factors.The proposed legislation should define easement right, refugee status (economic migrant, asylum seekernon-state actors, enemy aliens,foreigners or unauthorized infiltrators), length of stay of a refugee in Pakistan, clear authority delegation to either federal or provincial government to repatriate the Afghan refugees. Clear policy for a refugee to hold and convey property and a mechanism to pay some form an equivalent of tax like an annual levy to the provincial Government.

In the absence of any concrete roadmap the GoP may have to extend the stay of the registered refugees beyond June this year, which will cause serious problems especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the local population and the provincial government have been vocal in seeking the repatriation of the Afghan refugees. Although the Pakistan government has not stated this, but it is clear that they are not keen to renew refugee cards unless clear benchmarks for their return have been delineated. The GoP needs to make its position perfectly clear to all the stakeholders, especially the UN and the international community. For GoP, sustaining refugees unilaterally with little to no international assistance is becoming increasingly impossible.

Terrorism and Security Cooperation:
With both countries being major victims of terrorism there is a dire need to enhance defence and security cooperation with Afghanistan especially in the wake of recent terrorists attacks on both sides.
The GoP should engage Afghanistan in evolving a comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement that would include, inter alia, mutual assurances that the territory of one country would not be used for activities that are detrimental to the interests of the other.

With the Daesh-Khurasan having established a footprint in Afghanistan the threat of terrorism has become further compounded. It is essential for both countries to develop a joint strategy to fight this new and even more sinister menace.

The Committee welcomes greater military to military contacts witnessed between the two countries in the recent past and recommends that these be developed further through institutional linkages for success in areas of counter terrorism, counter-extremism and overall intelligence sharing. There is a need to formulate a structural cooperative mechanism in this regard between the intelligence agencies of the two countries for a joint strategy to combat terrorism.

FATA Reforms:
Although this is GoP’s internal matter, the long overdue political and administrative FATA reforms are critical to effective border management and counter terrorism. Mainstreaming FATA and the political, social and economic integration of the tribal Pashtuns into Pakistani society must be prioritized.

In the aftermath of military operations in FATA, there is an urgent need for economic investment and the effective presence of civilian state institutions in FATA not only to ensure the return of Afghan refugees but also to secure the writ of the state in these areas.

The meeting was attended by Member of the Committee Daniyal Aziz,Sahibzada Muhammad Nazeer Sultan, Mian Najeebuddin Awaisi,Muhammad Khan Daha, Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan, Dr. Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari, Ms. Naeema Kishwar Khan,Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, and Senior Officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and group of students from NUST University also attended the meeting.

Check Also

PM House vehicles auctioned: 70 cars auction above market price: Information Minister

ISLAMABAD -UNS- Seventy vehicles of the Prime Minister House have been auctioned above the market …

Repatriation of illicit finances, recovery of stolen assets: Pak-UK sign accord to stop money laundering

BY IFTIKHAR MASHWANI ISLAMABAD – The governments of Pakistan and the United Kingdom on Monday …

%d bloggers like this: