By Tahir Khan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan track-II dialogue on Friday issued a joint declaration, urging both countries to put a pause on blame game and jointly work for peace.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan Track 1.5/II initiative, titled ‘Beyond Boundaries,’ held in Islamabad sought continuation of government-to-government engagement for expeditious finalisation of working coordination groups to promote bilateral and regional security and economic development
The dialogue was jointly organised by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Safeworld, a UK-based independent international organization.
The declaration urged national leaders to avoid negativity in their statements at international fora, suggesting them to instead focus on devising a joint strategy that could be conducive to regional peace and security.
The Pakistani participants condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Kabul, offering their heartfelt condolences to the victims and bereaved families.
The Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Committee (PAJC) suggested that business visas to traders and businessmen should be exempted from police reporting requirement to facilitate their hotel reservations, visits to local firms and partners, and to avoid harassment. Both sides requested Pakistan embassy in Kabul not insist on presentation of ‘Tazkira’ (identity card) and its English attested translation while processing visa applications.
On refugees, the delegates insisted that the refugee issue should be treated as a humanitarian issue, and hence not to be politicised. They urged both the governments to work together with the UNHCR and other UN-agencies to establish a realistic timetable for voluntary return of Afghan refugees with dignity, safety and honor.
They underlined the need to take appropriate capacity building measures, both at Afghan embassy in Islamabad and at the Peshawar Consulate to cope with issues such as issuance of passports and travel documents to all those Afghans desiring to return to Afghanistan. The delegates called for enhanced intra-agency and intra-governmental coordination to chart out dignified and gradual timeframe for return of refugees.
They demanded that the Pakistani government should ensure security of investment by Afghan refugees, including assets, properties and businesses by providing enough timeframe to respective refugees and their families.
On bilateral trade, the delegates came up with a unanimous call on both countries to segregate business and trade ties from political and security tensions. “To rejuvenate Pak-Afghan trade, both bilateral and transit, concrete action plan may be jointly worked out in coordination with business community and other stakeholders,” the statement said.
They urged Afghanistan to resume the stalled Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) and Joint Economic Commission meetings as soon as possible to offset the declining trend in trade volume. The delegates also wanted the two countries to sign Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) to address the current impediments in bilateral trade.
The declaration pressed the two countries to consider early materialization of agreed ministerial visits and other high-level meetings, including those of SAFRON, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce as well as military level contacts and intelligence sharing.
The Afghan delegation included Advisor to Chief Executive on Trade and Regional Cooperation Mozammil Shinwari, members of Parliament Elay Ershad, and Rangina Kargar, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, Pakistan and Afghanistan Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industries co-chairman and president Khan Jan Alokozai, former governor Nangarhar Saleem Khan Kunduzi, Representative of the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Migration Affairs Sekander and Deputy of Provincial Assembly of Nangarhar Lal Mohammad Durrani.
Pakistani delegation comprised member of the National Assembly Shazi Marri, former police chief of Balochistan Shoaib Suddle, former ambassadors Qazi Humayun, Mian Sanaullah and Seema Ilahi Baloch, political analyst Zahid Hussain, TV anchor Rehman Azhar and secretary general of Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Faiza Abdullah.
Published in Daily Times, March 3rd 2018.