Islamabad & banned militant outfit TTP to sit together for a dialogue. Muttaqi Pakistan & Afghanistan will have to show flexibility and move towards a brighter future. Lecture in ISSI

Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi urges Islamabad & banned militant outfit TTP to sit together for a dialogue

Says Pakistan & Afghanistan will have to show flexibility and move towards a brighter future

Says Pakistan-Afghanistan ties are beyond the neighborhood

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi has urged Islamabad and banned militant outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to sit together for a dialogue. “Pakistan-Afghanistan ties are beyond the neighborhood. Besides shared religious and cultural values, we are inter-related in economic issues as well”, he said.

“It is requested that Pakistan and TTP sit together for dialogue,” this was stated by Amir Khan Muttaqi, Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan during his Public Talk, organized by the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), on Monday, under its Distinguished Lecture Series.

Acknowledging Pakistan’s loss while fighting against terrorism, he said: “In the last 20 years, Pakistan has lost 80,000 lives to terrorism.” The minister also spoke about Afghanistan successfully achieving peace after 44 years.

Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi added that the challenges faced by neighbouring countries Pakistan and Afghanistan are not different from one another. The minister said both countries have been through various situations and will now work together.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan will have to show flexibility and move towards a brighter future,” Muttaqi said.

Expressing Afghanistan’s interest in maintaining economic ties with Pakistan, the minister stated: “Pakistan has always been our focus. There has been interest in economic ties with the country since the beginning.”

The Afghan leader said trade between the two nations continued despite political differences and hoped to continue economic relations in the future.

Commenting on the significance of trade routes between the two countries, Muttaqi said: “Closure of trade routes eliminates several employment opportunities for ordinary citizens.”

Muttaqi suggested that bilateral progress can increase 10 times with Pakistan’s investment in Afghanistan’s energy reserves.

He added that both countries have been facing political and economic challenges for the last two years, but possess potential for growth.

“Many problems including livelihood and unemployment can be controlled by working together,” he said.

The Afghan minister also spoke about maintaining excellent ties with nations including Pakistan Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“We want to develop economic relations with Pakistan and Central Asia. Our foreign policy is based on dialogue and mutual relations,” he said, adding that their administration’s recent visits to Uzbekistan, Samarkand and Pakistan are an example of their good relations.

He termed the lack of economic ties with other countries as a “major challenge”.

He praised Pakistan’s efforts for economic prosperity and connectivity in the region. Muttaqi also said that Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan are also on cultural and religious basis.

Speaking about the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan, the minister said: “It has been 20 months to our government in Afghanistan. Several problems have been overcome by the grace of Allah.”

Responding to a question regarding women’s participation in the workforce, the Afghan minister said: “Afghan women, 1,000 women health workers, are working in various fields including. They are also currently studying in different madrassahs.”

He said Afghanistan did not desire bloodshed on Pakistani soil at any cost adding that the Afghan government played its role to root out the TTP and the Daesh. “Both countries have to show flexibility for a bright future,” he added.

He went on to say that the Taliban had been ruling Afghanistan for 20 months adding that the Taliban administration had resolved scores of issues. “Economic sanctions pose a great challenge, therefore, banks are struggling to import raw material,” he added.

The minister said the Afghan government was trying to curb unemployment and inflation adding that the World Bank report saw inflation in the country going down and the Afghan currency getting stable. “Afghan government presented the budget without any aid from foreign agencies,” he added.

Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi continued by saying that Afghanistan desired to establish economic relations with Pakistan and Central Asian countries adding that its foreign policy stood on dialogue and mutual interests. “We admire Pakistan’s attempts to boost economic development and connectivity in the region,” he added.

He said Pakistan and Afghanistan had been going through economic challenges for two years adding that both countries possessed growth potential. “Pakistan has been the centre point of our focus and we have been interested in fostering economic ties with it,” he added. We were hoping to continue, he said, these relations.

He alluded that the Afghan administration was desirous to make the country prosper adding that both countries were facing the same challenges. “We faced hard times and now we will move forward together,” he added.

The world was now accepting Afghanistan, he claimed, and we had also been reeling through economic hardships. “We increased the trade to $1.9 billion and it owes credit to a corruption-free society,” he added. We were focusing on, he said expanding the economic corridor and we could address issues by working together.

Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has never said female education is “haram” (prohibited) or that it is permanently banned. He said that female education has been banned only until there is a new notification.

Amir Khan Muttaqi recalled his previous visit to ISSI and said that since then, much had changed and many of the pessimistic analyses had proved to be wrong. He went on to say that the Interim government had overcome several challenges and that its first order of business was to convey to the region and beyond the desire to form a “new foreign policy” based on cooperative dialogue and joint ventures. He added that the government had been able to make the region’s decades-long aspiration of connectivity a reality, and not only Afghanistan but the entire region, particularly the CARs, could reap the benefits of this policy.

The Acting Foreign Minister further highlighted that, despite facing numerous challenges after assuming power, the Interim government had been able to attain progress in numerous fields. Contrary to the last twenty years, it was the first time in decades that Afghanistan was funding its national budget without any foreign assistance and loans. The country’s focus had not just been on its own economy but it was also continuously striving to increase regional connectivity and energy cooperation through mega projects like TAPI, CASA-1000, Trans-Afghan railways, and connecting South Asia to Central Asia through Afghanistan thus paving the way for greater integration.

Speaking about Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations, Acting Foreign Minister Muttaqi said that ties between the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan have been sacrificed at the altar of political considerations in the past, resulting in the loss of a lot of opportunities. He said both countries have been facing similar challenges over the past two years; even though the manifestations were different, the pain was common for both.  He was of the view that his administration was resolved to turn these challenges into opportunities and take firm steps that help integrate the two economies, so that there can be “cascading effects.”

He added that the two countries should leverage their God-given opportunities to build their future. The economic ties should be de-linked from political considerations and forward movement ensured through joint efforts, particularly in the fields of infrastructure and transportation. Work also needed to be focused on increasing management capacity, development in the fields of trade and commerce, and making custom’s procedures transparent, digital and easy.

Responding to questions regarding women’s rights, Acting Foreign Minister Mutaqqi said that female education was neither un-Islamic nor banned permanently; the decree was only suspended till the second order.

The Acting Foreign Minister also responded to a number of questions regarding terrorism and TTP. He categorically reaffirmed that Afghanistan will never allow its territory to be used against any country, including Pakistan.  He added that the request to resolve the issue through dialogue as well may also be considered.

While commenting on the recently-concluded Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said that they had held important deliberations where the three sides agreed on not allowing any individual, group or party to use their territories to harm and threaten regional security and interests or conduct terrorist actions and activities.

Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, moderated the event. She said that the visit of the Acting Foreign Minister was a continuation of Pakistan’s political engagement process with Afghanistan and this event was held at CAMEA’s efforts to reinforce bilateral relations.

During his welcome remarks, Director General ISSI and former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood underscored the importance of Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi’s visit to Pakistan and highlighted the uniqueness of the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship in view of the indissoluble bonds between the two peoples. “There are no other two countries in the region that have so much in common as Pakistan and Afghanistan do”, which “makes positive mutual engagement a matter not of choice, but of necessity”, he said.

Sohail Mahmood recalled the events since 15 August 2021and Pakistan’s steps bilaterally, regionally and internationally to support the fraternal people of Afghanistan including through humanitarian and economic support, facilitation of bilateral trade and transit trade, and regulated cross-border movement. He also highlighted the international community’s expectations from the Interim authorities including inclusivity, human rights of all citizens of Afghanistan, and counter-terrorism actions. He stressed that Pakistan had also remained bilaterally engaged with the authorities in Afghanistan to ensure that terrorism and security-related issues were effectively addressed.

The event was attended by a large number of former diplomats, members of Islamabad-based Diplomatic Corps, academics, researchers, representatives of civil society, and print and electronic media.

The event concluded with Chairman BoG, ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, presenting the Institute’s shield to the guest.