UNITED NATIONS: Reaffirming Pakistan's commitment to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, a top Pakistani diplomat told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that Islamabad would play a facilitating role in the Afghan reconciliation process, as the 193-member body adopted a resolution on the situation in that war-torn country.
At the same time, Ambassador Masood Khan said Pakistan has "no favourites" in the process, while stressing that there should be "realistic expectations" about his country's role.
"Pakistan can exercise influence, but it does not control Taliban," the ambassador told delegates from around the world. "The people of Afghanistan should be in the driving seat and be the masters of their own destiny," he said.
"Our government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is making conscious and resolute effort to forge closer ties with Afghanistan, to oppose immediate security threats, to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, and to shape an environment for regional connectivity."
The 105-paragraph resolution, which was co-sponsored by Pakistan, targeted the areas of security and transition, peace, reconciliation and reintegration, governance, rule of law and human rights, social and economic development, regional cooperation, counter narcotics and coordination.
By the text, the Assembly supported the continuing and growing ownership of reconstruction and development efforts by the Government of Afghanistan.
However, among other things, the Assembly stressed the need to continue addressing the threat to security and stability caused by ongoing violent and terrorist activity by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other groups and called upon all Member States to deny those groups any form of sanctuary or financial, material or political support.
In his speech, Ambassador Masood Khan said he was pleased to sponsor this year's resolution on Afghanistan, which came at a defining moment as that country negotiated momentous political, security and economic transitions in 2014.
Gains made in Afghanistan over the last decade must not be wasted or reversed, and military withdrawal should not be a synonym for reduced focus.
Afghanistan must not be abandoned again, the Pakistani envoy said, adding that strenuous efforts were being made to ensure that planned transitions would lead to a stronger and more stable country. There should be no vacuums, and there were encouraging signs in that direction.
In that context, he said, planned elections next year would consolidate democracy, reinforce the rule of law and strengthen norms of broad representation and accountability.
Furthermore, the most crucial ingredient was a peace and reconciliation process that was Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. A military solution was not a panacea for Afghanistan nor an insurance against long-term instability.
Apprehensions existed that the Afghan economy would suffer after the withdrawal of US-led NATO troops since it had been run or perceived as a war economy bolstered by a massive international presence, the Pakistani envoy said. Pledges for investment, however, had not materialized, he pointed out.
Pakistan's fear, he said, was that an economic slowdown in Afghanistan post-2014 might result in more refugees wanting to move to its territory.
While Pakistan was committed to supporting Afghans in distress, at the same time early and sustainable return of refugees should continue.