Islamabad, 18 September: Common faith, history, culture, languages and interlinked socio-economic realities and opportunities provide the basis and way forward for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to ensure peace and build their bright future together.
This was the message of a two-day conference in Islamabad titled, “Pakistan and Afghanistan: Towards an Ideal Bilateral Arrangement,” jointly organized by Institute of Policy Studies and Centre for Strategic and Regional Studies (CSRS), Kabul on 16-17 September.
The speakers at the event demanded that the policymakers, both in Kabul and Islamabad, must not waste further time and immediately initiate comprehensive dialogues and take confidence building measures to lay the ground for strong and everlasting relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and counter the nefarious designs of the international and regional players who are bent upon creating differences between the two brotherly nations trying to derail every single effort to bring sustainable peace and stability in the region.
The roundtable was addressed by a number of Afghan scholars and policy analysts including Dr Abdul Baqi Amin, director general, CSRS, Dr Fazal Hadi Wazeen, Dr Waheedullah Muslih and Engr. Hamid Durrani. From the Pakistan side the key discussants were Ambassador (retd) Rustam Shah Mohmand, DG-IPS Khalid Rahman, Air Commodore (retd) Khalid Iqbal, Brig (retd) Said Nazir, Ambassador (retd) Ayaz Wazir, Irfan Shahzad, lead coordinator research at IPS, Dr Anwar Shah, and Mairaj-ul-Hamid.
The conference had four sessions spread over two days during which the many sources of affinity between the two nations – historic, cultural, religious, and ethnic – and the intricacies involved in the intra-state interactions were extensively discussed. It called for an immediate need to rebuild the confidence and trust between the two countries with visible and tangible steps. It called for immediately initiating a process of sincere dialogue with clear goals and objectives, inclusive and addressing all issues, respecting each other’s national interests and bringing them on the table.
The negative role of a segment of policymakers, media and intelligentsia in the two countries was also criticized as major cause of hatred between Afghan and Pakistani nations and promoting vested interests of foreign powers in the region.
The speakers underscored that rebuilding of relations between the two brotherly nations should be approached with an enhanced focus on positivity and banking upon commonalities, than the oft-beaten path of sticking to the issues, differences, and divergences.
The roundtable participants also agreed that external forces would always like to focus on achieving their interests, creating problems for the local people and the region; but the point for the leadership and people of the two countries was to ponder over how to steer clear of pushes and pulls being motivated by the external forces, and move towards a smooth bilateral relationship.
As to the intra-Afghan peace process, scholars from both the sides were unanimous that it has to be recognized that Afghans themselves were responsible as well as best suited to solve the problems and issues between them. Public opinion in Afghanistan does not support war; the American-led war has remained meaningless for the people of this region and the presence of foreign forces remains an obstacle to peace. There however are entrenched lobbies which do not favor peace. These include the forces of status quo which are benefiting from the prolonged conflict; hardened positions of the parties involved which diverge widely; and now the Daesh factor is also coming up. Any move towards peace will have to keep these factors in view.
It was unanimously felt that the issue of refugees and displaced persons should be approached as a long-standing linkage between the two societies; and a conducive environment needs to be created for a smooth, mutually agreeable, lasting solution which, above all, is respectable for refugees and displaced persons themselves.
Both the sides emphasized that the civil society, research centers and think-tanks in particular can play a vital role in promoting relations between the two countries. They can influence the policymakers and stakeholders; therefore such institutions should come forward actively, and collaboration between them should be strengthened for mutual understanding.