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Pakistan Today

Published Date: Sep 4, 2013

Pakistan pledges support for promotion of peace in Afghanistan

Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday assured the international community that
Pakistan was committed to working with Afghanistan and regional and
international partners for the promotion of peace, stability and
prosperity in the region and beyond.

Addressing a seminar organised by the East West Institute titled
“Afghanistan Reconnected: Linking energy suppliers to consumers in
Asia”, Aziz said a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan was in
Pakistan’s vital national interest.

“We remain committed to supporting efforts for peace and reconciliation
in Afghanistan in an inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process,” he
added.

He said the two countries had agreed to work together in a number of
energy and connectivity projects besides reaffirming their commitment to
further strengthening trade ties under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit
Trade Agreement (APTTA).

He said Afghanistan had invited Pakistan for a joint investment in the
Kunar Hydro Power project whose design and feasibility had been
completed, adding that the project would produce 1500MW of electricity
to be shared by the two countries.

Aziz said Pakistan and Afghanistan would pursue with the World Bank the
early finalisation of 170-KM Torkham-Jalalabad new rail link connecting
Peshawar with Jalalabad.

He said the two countries were also working on 11.5 KM Chaman-Spinbolduk
rail link that ultimately connects Chaman with Kandahar.

“Our region is blessed with immense potentials in terms of natural
resources, which if tapped efficiently can yield benefits to the entire
region and Afghanistan occupies an important position in the region,
straddling Central, West and South Asia,” he added.

The adviser said Pakistan was keen to continue working with Afghanistan
in pursuit of connectivity and energy projects linking Pakistan with
Central Asia.

“In this context, discussions are also continuing on extending APTTA to
Tajikistan by finalizing the Tripartite Agreement under consideration of
the three sides.”

He said as a country struggling to emerge out of decades of instability,
Afghanistan was expected to face serious challenges, which could be
overcome through a sustained effort involving financial and technical
support, infrastructure and human resources.

He said support of the international community for Afghanistan’s
reconstruction and development was crucial for reinforcing the efforts
for peace and reconciliation.

“We believe the Tokyo Conference is a step in the right direction in
meeting Afghanistan’s development needs in the coming years,” Aziz said.

He said despite its limited resources, Pakistan had been extending
support to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development through
contributions primarily to education, health and infrastructure projects
in Afghanistan, worth $330 million.

He said Afghanistan was ideally located to connect energy suppliers and users in its neihbourhood and beyond.

He said Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India gas pipeline (TAPI)
and Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) were two such examples of
projects which made Afghanistan a “connector”.

“These projects hold substantial economic advantages for Afghanistan, in
addition to speeding up its own reconstruction and development
efforts,” he added.

The adviser said successful security transition by the end of December
2014, and assumption of full responsibility for peace and stability by
the Afghan National Security Force and Afghan National Army would help
the country prepare a helpful environment for the pursuit and
development of energy and connectivity projects.

He said next year’s political transition, through successful conclusion
of the Presidential and Provincial Council elections would also be an
important factor.

Aziz said Afghanistan would require financial support, including
investment in its infrastructure and institutional development,
including health, education and human resource development.

He said Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan were reinforced by strong
bonds of a common history, religion and culture, adding that Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif had clearly underlined the government’s priority
in terms of addressing energy needs in the short- and long-term.

“We are keen on working with Afghanistan as a conduit for energy supply,” he added.

Aziz said Afghanistan had been facing conflict and instability for more
than three decades. “As a neighbouring country, Pakistan has
consistently faced the fall out of this situation.”

He said for over three decades, Pakistan had been host to one of the
largest refugee populations in the world, despite dwindling
international support and in spite of economic difficulties.

Aziz said about three million Afghan refugees still lived in Pakistan, of which about 1.6 million were registered.

He said just last month, Pakistan had signed the Tripartite Agreement
along with Afghanistan and UNHCR extending the stay of refugees until
December 2015.

“We hope this time will be used to prepare for the return of the refugees to their homeland,” he added.