ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his maiden visit to Kabul underscored the need for enhanced coordination between the two countries in counterterrorism efforts with an offer to train personnel of Afghan police and other law enforcement agencies at Pakistani institutions.
The foreign minister during his visit met Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah and held delegation-level talks with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani.
Mr Qureshi conveyed to the Afghan leadership that the new government in Islamabad attached importance to its relations with Afghanistan and would work towards further deepening cooperation in the fields of trade, development and connectivity. “The visit provided an opportunity to set out the contours of the new government’s future engagement with Afghanistan to build mutually beneficial relationship and enhance cooperation between the two countries,” added a Foreign Office statement issued after the meeting.
Ashraf Ghani invited to visit Islamabad
In their meeting, the two foreign ministers took decisions on holding meetings of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC), Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA), Steering Committee of the Joint Ulema Conference and the working groups of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). They also agreed to expedite matters related to providing necessary security to Pakistan consulate general in Jalalabad.
According to the Afghanistan ministry of foreign affairs, Mr Qureshi and Mr Rabbani agreed to hold Afghanistan-Pakistan’s Ulema meeting and a second round of the trilateral meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. While the two sides decided to hold the Ulema meeting in the near future, they did not give information when and where the second round of the trilateral meeting would be held, stated the Afghan media, Tolo News. The last meeting of the three countries was hosted by China in December 2017 where Beijing tried to mediate between Kabul and Islamabad to help them improve their relations.
FM Qureshi also invited President Ghani to visit Pakistan. He underlined the importance of frequent high-level engagements between the two countries that contributed to building trust and improving mutual understanding.
He highlighted the need to maintain this upward trajectory in bilateral relations through more high-level visits during the upcoming months.
He reiterated Pakistan’s support for the national unity government’s efforts to bring about a lasting peace in Afghanistan and assured the Afghan leadership that Pakistan, along with other partners of Afghanistan, remained ready to play constructive role in facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation.
In the context of enhancing trade between the two countries, he said Pakistan had decided to waive off regulatory duty on imports from Afghanistan. It was for this reason, he added, Afghan exports to Pakistan recorded substantial increase of 118 per cent in 2018. He stated that Pakistan would fast-track standardisation and automation of custom procedures as well as upgrade of infrastructure at crossing points between the two countries.
The foreign minister also handed over a letter from Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, marking the first consignment of 40,000 tonnes of wheat gifted to the Afghan people.
For the second phase of 3,000 scholarships, more than 600 scholarships had already been granted, he said.
FM Qureshi highlighted the unmatched hospitality extended by the people of Pakistan for their Afghan brothers and sisters and underlined the need for dignified, sustainable and repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland through a gradual and time-bound plan.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2018