Speakers say relations should be built on a firmer footing.
Politicians and academics from Pakistan and Afghanistan gave the thumbs up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s policy of non interference in Afghan affairs on the second day of the South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) conference.
“It’s good to see that PM Nawaz is willing to pull Pakistani hands out of Afghanistan but is the ‘other’ Sharif willing to do so too?” said Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmad in a thinly veiled reference to army chief General Raheel Sharif. “We only change policies after an incident has occurred, something which should be taken care of beforehand.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Pir Sabir Shah said Pakistan could not be given into the hands of those who wanted to spread their own brand of Islam and that PM Nawaz was pushing hard to scrap strategies that define Afghanistan as an area of ‘strategic depth’.
At the same time, Shah said, the Afghans should also tell India to do the same. “We need to start our relations on firmer foundations,” he said.
Afghanistan’s Ulasi Jirga member Khalid Pashtoon said it was about time Pakistan brought people of its tribal area into the mainstream and dismantled the ‘terrorist sanctuaries’ there. Pointing towards a certain political party in Pakistan, Pashtoon said politicians here should let the international community deal with foreign criminals hiding in Fata and not politicise the matter.
Dr Wadir Safi of Kabul University highlighted Afghanistan’s potential as a trade partner and a corridor to Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. He underscored the ‘water starved’ agrarian country’s need for technical assistance and the growth of its mining industry.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, in his address, said noninterference of foreign powers in Afghan policy making and the upcoming elections could put the country on the right track.
He said filling the economic void in Afghanistan as per the promises made in Tokyo and Chicago were also crucial for a sustainable future growth.
“The reconciliatory process has been slow and inconvenient and high hopes for a positive end to the Doha talks have also come crashing down,” said the de facto foreign minister, adding that: “Real progress will only be seen if Afghans solve their problems in-house – without anyone’s interference.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Aziz said the Border Management Policy of 2010 would soon be implemented along the ‘physical borders’ to curb both the eastward and westward movement across it.
“Pakistan has no favourites in the neighbouring country and is willing to support a confidence building process to achieve peace in the region,” he added.