ISLAMABAD (Agencies): “Pakistan-Afghanistan ties are beyond the neighborhood. Besides shared religious and cultural values, we are inter-related in economic issues as well.” This was stated by H.E. Amir Khan Muttaqi, Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan during his Public Talk, organized by the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, today, under its Distinguished Lecture Series.
Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, moderated the event. She said that the visit of the Acting Foreign Minister was a continuation of Pakistan’s political engagement process with Afghanistan and this event was held at CAMEA’s efforts to reinforce bilateral relations.
During his welcome remarks, Director General ISSI Amb. Sohail Mahmood underscored the importance of Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi’s visit to Pakistan and highlighted the uniqueness of the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship in view of the indissoluble bonds between the two peoples. “There are no other two countries in the region that have so much in common as Pakistan and Afghanistan do”, which “makes positive mutual engagement a matter not of choice, but of necessity”, he said. Amb. Sohail Mahmood recalled the events since 15 August 2021and Pakistan’s steps bilaterally, regionally and internationally to support the fraternal people of Afghanistan including through humanitarian and economic support, facilitation of bilateral trade and transit trade, and regulated cross-border movement. He also highlighted the international community’s expectations from the Interim authorities including inclusivity, human rights of all citizens of Afghanistan, and counter-terrorism actions. He stressed that Pakistan had also remained bilaterally engaged with the authorities in Afghanistan to ensure that terrorism and security-related issues were effectively addressed.
While expressing his views, H.E. Amir Khan Muttaqi, recalled his previous visit to ISSI and said that since then, much had changed and many of the pessimistic analyses had proved to be wrong. He went on to say that the Interim government had overcome several challenges and that its first order of business was to convey to the region and beyond the desire to form a “new foreign policy” based on cooperative dialogue and joint ventures. He added that the government had been able to make the region’s decades-long aspiration of connectivity a reality, and not only Afghanistan but the entire region, particularly the CARs, could reap the benefits of this policy.
The Acting Foreign Minister further highlighted that, despite facing numerous challenges after assuming power, the Interim government had been able to attain progress in numerous fields. Contrary to the last twenty years, it was the first time in decades that Afghanistan was funding its national budget without any foreign assistance and loans. The country’s focus had not just been on its own economy but it was also continuously striving to increase regional connectivity and energy cooperation through mega projects like TAPI, CASA-1000, Trans-Afghan railways, and connecting South Asia to Central Asia through Afghanistan thus paving the way for greater integration.
Speaking about Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations, Acting Foreign Minister Muttaqi said that ties between the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan have been sacrificed at the altar of political considerations in the past, resulting in the loss of a lot of opportunities. He said both countries have been facing similar challenges over the past two years; even though the manifestations were different, the pain was common for both. He was of the view that his administration was resolved to turn these challenges into opportunities and take firm steps that help integrate the two economies, so that there can be “cascading effects.” He added that the two countries should leverage their God-given opportunities to build their future. The economic ties should be de-linked from political considerations and forward movement ensured through joint efforts, particularly in the fields of infrastructure and transportation. Work also needed to be focused on increasing management capacity, development in the fields of trade and commerce, and making custom’s procedures transparent, digital and easy.
Responding to questions regarding women’s rights, Acting Foreign Minister Mutaqqi said that female education was neither un-Islamic nor banned permanently; the decree was only suspended till the second order.
The Acting Foreign Minister also responded to a number of questions regarding terrorism and TTP. He categorically reaffirmed that Afghanistan will never allow its territory to be used against any country, including Pakistan. He added that the request to resolve the issue through dialogue as well may also be considered.
While commenting on the recently-concluded Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said that they had held important deliberations where the three sides agreed on not allowing any individual, group or party to use their territories to harm and threaten regional security and interests or conduct terrorist actions and activities.
The event was attended by a large number of former diplomats, members of Islamabad-based Diplomatic Corps, academics, researchers, representatives of civil society, and print and electronic media.
The event concluded with Chairman BoG, ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, presenting the Institute’s shield to the guest.