Islamabad: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appreciated Pakistan for launching operation Zarb-e-Azb against the terrorists. He said that his country desires strong people to people contacts with Pakistan for further strengthening of relations and mutual trust. He thanked Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees on its territory over the last many decades. 

Ashraf Ghani pointed out that TAPI is a very important regional energy project which will soon be inaugurated in Turkmenistan. CASA 100 project will also bring the people of the region closer together. 

Ashraf Ghani said  that terrorism is a common problem of Pakistan and Afghanistan as both the countries have suffered immensely in the war against this menace and there is a need to evolve a mechanism to identity the terrorist abettors. He said responsibility rests with the entire international community to combat terrorism and violent extremism. He said we should avoid blame game and evolve a multidimensional strategy for peace.

“Unfortunately, recent events in Pakistan have forced us to host close to 350,000 to 500,000 Pakistani refugees on our soil. The refugee issue is a common issue, like other issues that confront us," Ghani said.

He presented a run-down of the part Afghanistan played to establish regional cooperation in 2015, including TAPI, CASA1000 that would pass through Afghanistan and said the country is rapidly moving towards regional integration towards Central Asia, East Asia and West Asia."

"By contrast, our ambitious projects of cooperation for transit and linkages to Pakistan have still remained at the level of conception and aspiration. I hope this conference results in significant movement in this domain." He said

He said that 36 per cent of Afghans live below the poverty line of $1.25. If the line were $2, he said, almost 70pc of Afghans would be below it.

“Poverty elimination is our most significant goal and I'm convinced that regional cooperation could allow us to have the types of growth that could allow us to tackle the most fundamental weakness?, the poverty and exclusion of women, youth and the poor.” He added

Speaking of the political transition in Afghanistan, he said, “We took the unusual step of forming a government of national unity."

"We have learned from 300 years of discord that politics must become a win-win formula, not lose-lose proposition and that is an important part of the new political culture.”

"As part of this again I strongly reiterate our commitment to lasting and just peace within which all movements that resort to arms convert themselves to political parties and participate in the political process legitimately," he said.

"Violence is not the way in a democratic society," Ghani asserted.

The Afghan president also invited the armed groups to surrender weapons and become part of political process. 

Earlier on arrival at the Nur Khan airbase, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He was presented a guard of honour and given a 21 gun salute. National anthems of both countries were played.

High-level officials of the civil leadership and armed forces present at the reception included Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Air Staff Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, National Security Adviser Lt Gen Nasir Janjua, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi.