ISLAMABAD - Endorsing Islamabad’s stance on Pak-Afghan border management and related security issues, United States officials yesterday held discussion with Pakistan’s political and military leadership ranging from bilateral relations, regional security situation and joint efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Senator John McCain led a congressional delegation including Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Donnelly to GHQ for a meeting with Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif. The army chief apprised the US officials about the challenges faced by Pakistan in the ongoing war on terror and how they get multiplied when met with ineffective border management with Afghanistan, according to ISPR.

Senator McCain, while acknowledging Pakistan’s successes in Zarb-i-Azb, said Pak Army’s achievements in counter-terrorism operations are phenomenal and reflect the country’s determination to eliminate terrorism.

Stressing upon the need for better Pak-US relations, the senator said Pakistan and US need to cement relations in all dimensions and must strive for greater coordination for peace in the region and world at large.

Gen Raheel also held a separate meeting with US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson and discussed matters relating to regional security.

Earlier Olson had a detailed meeting with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and discussed with him the regional issues and efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan, said a Foreign Office statement.

The analysts were according great importance to the meetings between the two countries after a series of events in the past few months which had adversely affected the already chequered relations between the two countries.

During the meeting with the foreign secretary, Ambassador Olson recognised that Pakistan’s role in hosting Afghan refugees for more than 35 years should not be forgotten by the international community, underlining the need for creating pull factors for sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees.

Aizaz underlined Pakistan’s focus on effective border management on Pak-Afghan border with a view to enhancing security and counter-terrorism efforts.

In this regard, he apprised the US side regarding the creation of a high-level consultation mechanism between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address border management and related security issues.

Olson appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and stated that the US supported Pakistan’s efforts on border management.

Emphasising the early repatriation of Afghan refugees, the foreign secretary said that Pakistan wanted the return of refugees to take place with dignity and honour.

Pakistan and Afghanistan should address this important matter through dialogue and consultations. The international community including the US and UNHCR should lend their support to these efforts, he added.

On Afghan reconciliation, Aizaz reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to Quadrilateral Coordination Group as an effective forum to facilitate Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process. Olson appreciated continued close cooperation between Pakistan and the US on issues of mutual interest. He mentioned that Pakistan’s successes in stabilisation of the economy were remarkable. He also congratulated Pakistan for significant reduction in polio cases.

Both sides agreed on continued constructive engagement in the areas of trade, investment, education, health and energy.

DAR, OLSON DISCUSS AFGHAN REFUGEES

Richard Olson yesterday also called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and discussed with him the issue of Afghan refugees. Olson said safe, early and permanent repatriation of refugees to their homeland was a priority. He expressed support for efforts aimed at strengthening Pak-Afghan relations.

Dar said it was imperative to agree on a detailed roadmap for safe and honourable repatriation of Afghan Refugees.