Kabul: During his maiden visit to Kabul on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan will do everything possible to help reduce violence in Afghanistan and establish durable peace. Addressing a joint press conference alongside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the Presidential Palace, the premier said that the two countries have historical links.
The idea of visiting at a time when violence is increasing in Afghanistan is to assure you, President Ghani, that the people and the government of Pakistan have only one concern; peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have suffered for four decades, he said. The premier also noted that despite the role Pakistan has played in getting the Taliban to speak with Americans and with regards to intra-Afghan dialogue, the level of violence has risen in Afghanistan.
Assuring the Afghan leadership that Pakistan will play its part in reducing violence in the country, he said: If you feel there is somewhere Pakistan can help in reducing violence, please let us know. We assure you that we will do whatever is within our reach, he said. He stated that one of the reasons Islamabad was pushing for peace in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan's tribal areas which were devastated by the "war on terror". The only way to help people on both sides of the border is by peace, trade and connectivity, he said.
Earlier today, the premier arrived in Kabul to meet with the Afghan president at a time when peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives have stalled and incidents of violence are rising. This is the premier's first visit to Afghanistan since assuming office over two years ago. It is the highest-profile visit by a Pakistani official to Kabul since peace talks began between the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital of Doha.
The prime minister is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, Adviser on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, Special Representative for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and other senior officials.
The prime minister was received by the Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Afghan President's Special Representative for Pakistan Mohammad Umer Daudzai on his arrival in the country's capital. Later Prime Minister Imran was presented a guard of honour at the presidential palace.
Meanwhile, a delegation-level meeting was held between officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan in which both sides discussed Afghan peace process, bilateral relations, regional security situation and other matters of mutual interest. The Pakistani delegation included Foreign Minister Qureshi as well as prime minister's adviser Dawood, Foreign Secretary Mehmood and Special Representative for Afghanistan Sadiq.
Qureshi thanked Atmar for the warm welcome by the Afghan government and noted that both countries share a 'traditional and historic relationship'. Commenting on the ongoing peace process, Qureshi said that Prime Minister Imran had always maintained that the Afghan conflict could not be solved through violence. He added that regional security and stability depended upon the establishment of peace in Afghanistan.
The success of intra-Afghan dialogue is unavoidable for the establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan, Qureshi said.
We are glad that today, the world is acknowledging Pakistan's stance and lauding its mediation role in the Afghan peace process, he said. He added that Pakistan wanted Afghan refugees to return to their country in a dignified manner.
The visit comes days after the Pentagon announced it would reduce the number of United States military personnel in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. Due to leave office on Jan 20 after losing this month's presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden, President Donald Trump is seeking to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan, the United States' longest conflict.
Critics slammed Trump for timing the withdrawal to his own calendar as opposed to some kind of breakthrough in Afghanistan that would justify a major drawdown. And outside of Afghanistan, nowhere is the risk of instability greater than in neighbouring Pakistan. Mistrust has cloaked relations between the neighbours. As militants later began launching attacks inside Pakistan, it accused Afghanistan of stirring trouble in its borders.
Focus would be on further deepening the fraternal bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Afghan peace process, and regional economic development and connectivity, the foreign office said in a statement as the prime minister headed for Kabul.
Pakistan's role in the peace talks has been key, according to Washington, particularly given its influence over the Taliban leadership, though Pakistan says that influence has waned over the years. Washington's special representative for Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad has made a number of trips to Islamabad to discuss the peace process.
A spokesman for the Afghan presidential palace, Dawa Khan Minapal, said the main purpose of the visit would be bilateral trade and economic relations, but the fight against militancy in the region would also be at the top of the agenda. The focus will be mainly on the peace process but we won't keep our hopes high, said a source in the Afghan presidential palace.