ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday urged Pakistan and Afghanistan to find political will for resolving mutual differences at their own, without the involvement of the third party.
“It’s time for Pakistan and Afghanistan to build bridges, not burn. We need to sit, ponder and carve a future together,” the Foreign Minister said in his address at the Track-II Bilateral Dialogue on Afghanistan and Pakistan, attended by academics and intellectuals representing both counties.
Foreign Minister Qureshi stressed that with their future and geography tied, Pakistan and Afghanistan needed to understand their shared challenges and also find common solutions to address these.
“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 realize, the better it would be,” he said.
Qureshi expressed Pakistan’s sincere desire to ensure peace in Afghanistan and said the country was determined to strengthen bilateral relations by deepening cooperation.
“Today in Pakistan, we have a government in place extending the 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 a new economic corridor.
“We have seen happiness and sorrows together. Now, let us build new trust and a new beginning to fight poverty and corruption together,” he said.
Qureshi said history showed that all superpowers failed whenever tried to overcome the dignified people of Afghans.
“Afghans are proud and dignified people, not accepting masters but friends. History can be unforgiving if anyone does not learn from it,” he added.
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.
“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.
The Foreign Minister said Pakistan believed that regional countries had a critical role in Afghanistan’s stability and 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 ongoing peace process.
Qureshi regretted the postponement of Doha dialogue between the Afghan delegation and Taliban, which was due to be held earlier this month.
He mentioned the intrinsic linkage between the economies of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with former being the largest trading partner and the 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 the reconstruction of various projects including the building of hospitals, highways, and schools.
The recent joint inauguration of Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in Kabul on April 20th built with US$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.