August 09, 2017, Islamabad: A delegation of Afghan journalists visited the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) on Wednesday – August 09, 2017. Mr. Mohammad Naim Taher Qadiri – CEO of MITRA Global TV Network was the head of the delegation, other journalists included: Mr. Bashir Ansari – Head of Ariana TV in North and Head of Journalists Safety Committee, Mr. Fahim Ahmad Haqbin – Head of Lahza Radio and TV and Incharge of Afghan National Journalists Committee, Mr. Rohullag Farooq – Editor in Chief of Peerozi Newspaper, Mr. Zabiullah Fetrat – Head of National TV. Their visit was facilitated by Ministry of Information, Pakistan. Mr. Taimur Ahmed, Mr. Amin Jan from Ministry of Information, and Mr. Liaqat Pasha from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) accompanied the Afghan delegation.
CRSS was represented by former IG Police Dr. Shoaib Suddle, former Ambassadors Mr. Mian Sanaullah, Muhammad Ayaz Wazir and Qazi Humayun, Beyond Boundaries Track 1.5/II Project Director Mr. Aized Ali, senior journalists Mr. Tahir Khan, Mr. Hassan Khan, Ms. Amber Shamsi and Mr. Amaad Khalique, and Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik.
CRSS Executive Director Mr. Imtiaz Gul welcomed the Afghan Media delegation and told them about CRSS’ different initiatives which include Beyond Boundaries Pak-Afghan Track 1.5/II and Afghan Studies Center (ASC) in bridging the gap between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan delegates were explained that the ASC was the result of CRSS’s Pak-Afghan Track 1.5/11 dialogue that has been running since 2015. During this dialogue, it was felt that youth has a remarkable potential to play a constructive role in improving bilateral relations, thus the idea of providing the youth with a platform such as ASC precipitated there. The basic idea is connect the two countries through an informed discourse. After introduction of all participants, he let the floor open for discussion.
Mr. Mohammad Naim Taher Qadiri on behalf of the Afghan media delegation expressed his gratitude for the generosity and hospitality extended by Pakistanis during their one week long stay here in Pakistan. He also thanked CRSS for their efforts in improving bilateral relations and hosting them today. He said that it was an eye opening trip and found Pakistan very different from the perceived stereotypes back in Afghanistan. The delegation acknowledged the positive engagements between Pakistan and Afghanistan every now and then, but noted that what is missing is the engagement between two people to sustain the peace-building efforts in improving relations. What is positive here that there is a chance for betterment, he added.
Mr. Qadiri then commented on how Afghanistan has made big strides 9/11 afterwards. He informed the delegates that over 60,000 students are enrolled in a public and nine private universities in Mazar- e- Sharif, the capital of Balkh province alone. He mentioned specifically about iconic Liaqat Ali Khan University in Afghanistan made by Pakistan is helping to great extent in changing perceptions of Afghans about Pakistan, and projects like these can act as a catalyst for change. As a representative of media, he expressed media is doing remarkable job, however media alone cannot count on its own to serve as a connector in these difficult conditions. Pakistan needs to focus on investing more in the North for changing perceptions and to partner in development. Security remains the primary issue, for which all have to work together.
Participants from Pakistani side believed that Afghanistan today is a different Afghanistan. It’s evolving gradually with the introduction of democracy, gender equality and vigorous efforts for a change in education sector. The element of education may prove as a turning point, which may not be felt today, but the impact will be visible may be five years from now, Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik said. He also stressed on the need for more crossing points between Afghanistan and Pakistan besides Chaman and Torkham, to boost bilateral trade.
Tahir Qadri, head of Afghan delegation said that security is the main concern of every Afghan. He informed the delegates that there has been no single protest in Northern Afghanistan against Pakistan as they intend to focus on friendly relations more with all neighbors for long term peace and development. North has better security situation, an international standard airport with international air traffic, first ever train station which connects Afghanistan to Central Asia; this all had been possible due to better security outlook there. Therefore we need to focus on security so that development may happen on its own, he further stated.
Mr. Bashir Ansari – Head of Ariana TV in North pointed out that the problem is of opportunistic politicians, the people have to differentiate between genuine and opportunistic ones. Agreeing with the supposition, Dr. Shoaib Suddle, said that we should deny such opportunists who exploit the common people for their own gains. Furthering the conversation, Ansari pointed that both the countries have been victims of terrorism for very long and thus should not allow the outsiders to exploit them for their interests.
The head of Afghan Media delegation, Tahir Qadri passed on the greetings of Governor of Balkh, Atta Muhammad Noor for Pakistan. He further told Pakistani delegates that Governor Noor believes that Afghanistan needs Pakistan, and without it Afghanistan can go nowhere. Delegates from both sides agreed that through mutual consent positive changes can be enforced.
On a question about ethnic tensions inside Afghanistan by former Ambassador Ayaz Wazir, the Afghan side responded that it’s a reality but history has showed that nationalism always triumphed over ethnicities in Afghanistan.
The roundtable talk concluded with mutual proposal that both countries needed to join hands for economic cooperation on CPEC model (CPEC to be expanded to Afghanistan) and that bitter past should give way to a collaborative conversation on economic and social sector cooperation.