New York; At the UN, Pakistan expressed optimism about prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict in Afghanistan. But cautioned that the path to peace will not be easy as several challenges still have to be overcome.
Speaking in the UN Security Council debate on Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi said that grounds for hope have emerged from several rounds of talks that have taken place between the US and the Taliban.
“These talks”, Ambassador Lodhi said, “have opened up a real opportunity for progress towards peace in a country that has been ravaged by conflict and violence for more than a generation”.
Ambassador Lodhi said that Pakistan’s consistent efforts have helped to overcome the decades-old political impasse on the commencement of a peace dialogue.
The Pakistani envoy said that for almost two decades Pakistan had argued that there was no military solution to the conflict and that the only sustainable path to peace in Afghanistan was through dialogue.
Pakistan was therefore gratified that this is the path that was now being seriously pursued.
She reminded the 15-member world body that in his very first address to the nation after his election last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
“My government”, she recalled, “responded positively to US President Donald Trump’s request last year for help in the Afghan peace process”.
Detailing Pakistan’s efforts in support of the Afghan peace process, she said, “We have not only called for a reduction of violence by all sides but also for a ceasefire, and taken whatever steps we could to contribute to that objective”.
She told the 15-member Council that Pakistan’s contribution to the launch of direct US-Taliban talks in Doha, after the initial round in the UAE, has been widely acknowledged.
As the next step, Pakistan released Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar at the request of its international partners.
Also, she explained that during the six rounds of talks between the US and the Taliban, Pakistan had maintained a close liaison with the process, and fully supported these peace efforts, with endorsement by the highest levels of the progress made.
Underscoring the need for initiation of an intra-Afghan dialogue, Ambassador Lodhi said that Pakistan together with other international partners believed that this was an important next step. “We urge all sides, including the Taliban, to commit to this”, she declared.
“Pakistan”, Ambassador Lodhi reiterated, “will continue to play a constructive role to help promote a political settlement that can end the suffering of Afghan people”.
She said that apart from Afghanistan, no country other than Pakistan had suffered more from the four decades of war and foreign interventions in Afghanistan. “Therefore, there is no other country which will gain more from peace in Afghanistan”, she added.
Referring to the importance of close cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Lodhi said that strengthening bilateral relations was a priority for the government of Pakistan.
“The combined potential of Pakistan and Afghanistan is considerable”, she said and stressed that expanded trade, energy cooperation and implementation of the various trans-regional economic projects already identified could greatly enhance peace and prosperity in the entire region.
She also informed the Security Council that President Ashraf Ghani would be visiting Islamabad at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan later this month, and expressed confidence that the visit would provide an impetus to further strengthening relations between the two countries.
She concluded by citing Pakistan’s national poet Mohammed Iqbal who had declared– over a century ago – that if there is instability in Afghanistan, all of Asia will be unstable; while peace in Afghanistan would bring peace and prosperity to the entire region. Ambassador Lodhi said that Pakistan looked hopefully to a future where the restoration of peace in Afghanistan would lead to the realization of stability and security that has long eluded the region.