LAHORE: “The harsh attitude towards Afghan refugees has created a lot of problems and acrimony in Afghanistan. We hope the Pakistanis don’t want to destroy the 35 years of hospitality, and the goodwill it generated, by pursuing policies that have created more problems than solving them.”

This was stated by Abdul Hakim Mujahid, Member of Executive Board of the High Peace Council in Afghanistan while speaking at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) at a lecture/Q& A session conducted under the second phase of Beyond Boundaries (BB). BB is a Track I.5/II dialogue series undertaken by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in partnership with Afghan counterpart Women Peace and Security Organization (WPSO) to foster better understanding and cooperation between civil society members of the two neighbors. A second, simultaneous session was conducted at Forman Christian College’s (FCC) Center of Public Policy and Governance (CPPG), featuring leading female parliamentarian Shazia Marri, and former Afghan presidential candidate Sayed Ishaq Gailani.

The LUMS session also featured Wazhma Frogh, senior advisor to the Afghan Defense Minister, Ambassador Mian Sanaullah, and Dr. Rasul Baksh Rais. Frogh said that the Afghan delegation was there to initiate and promote a rational discourse on the two countries. She informed the students that in the post 9/11 Afghanistan, as many as 9 million children are going to schools, and that nearly 27 percent members of the parliament are women. It is a huge step forward for a male-dominated country. Amb. Sanaullah also echoed Hakimullah’s words in that any altercation only affects people and traders of both countries. He said that the benefit of this acrimony was only to a small pool of vested interests 

At FC, Gailani, while fielding a question from Marri, said that Afghanistan exited the SAARC conference because the government follows the Indian directives. He said this move was ill-advised, against the interests of Afghan people and only helped create more bitterness. Speaking of recent peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he said the Taliban in Qatar did not represent the Taliban in Afghanistan in the least. “The blood of Afghans is very cheap”, he said.

Marri commented on the need for continued engagement. Disengagement serves no one, and while you might not solve something every time, coming to the table and having a discussion is necessary to moving forward. She also said that the two countries needed to move past the official/military rhetoric and improve exchanges of academicians, media personnel, lawmakers and promote expanded cultural ties.