ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Afghanistan with full backing of the USA and the world community vowed on Wednesday to join hands for making the region peaceful with greater focus on development. Addressing the inaugural session of the 3rd Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai reiterated to work jointly for durable peace in the region to save future of the generations. Apart from Pakistan and Afghanistan, delegates from across the glob including the US, G-8 and regional countries are participating in the 2-day conference to have an effective plan to speed up reconstruction of Afghanistan and push the regional countries to promote economic cooperation for the development of the area. In his speech, Prime Minister Gilani said Afghanistans development must be accorded priority and its government, neighbours, regional countries, major powers and the international organisations need to make concerted efforts to advance the shared goals. He said, We will transform our region into one where terrorism and extremism are but a distant memory and where future generations can enjoy the fruits of freedom, development and prosperity in an environment of security, stability and abundant opportunity. He also said that Pakistan was prepared to join in efforts with Afghanistan for promoting regional connectivity, strengthening energy cooperation, expanding opportunities for Afghan citizens and enhancing the capacity of Afghan national institutions. He said Pakistan and Afghanistan shared faith, folklore, culture, customs, and have common roots. Our joys and sorrows, our successes and tragedies intersect and our people are bound by a distinct sense of shared destiny, adding that together both the countries could embark the road to deeper trust, greater understanding and intensified cooperation. Gilani further said that Pakistan was proud to be an active participant in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and added that it had contributed over $ 300 million for this purpose. He said that currently Pakistan was engaged in constructing the 200-bed Jinnah General Hospital and Thalassaemia Centre in Kabul, another hospital in Logar and a Kidney Centre in Jalalabad. The Prime Minister also announced to build a hostel for over 1,000 students in Kabul and undertake expansion of the universities of Kabul, Nangarhar and Balkh. About Pakistans efforts for the development of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Gilani mentioned the already completed Torkham-Jalalabad Highway and said at present it was engaged in building a parallel carriageway. He said Pakistan had supplied 200 trucks, 100 buses and over 50 ambulances and mobile medical units to Afghanistan and printed 10 million textbooks for Afghan school children, besides supplying school kits, computers, tents, food aid and other essential items. The Prime Minister announced allocation of 1,000 scholarships for Afghan students. He also proposed setting up model villages for Afghan returnees and plans for promoting skills development through vocational training centres. Prime Minister Gilani also said Pakistan would set up a regional Customs Academy in Kabul, extend the railroads up to Afghanistan and accelerate the projects on infrastructure and energy connectivity. These projects are the first incremental steps towards the realisation of a futuristic vision for the region, he said. The Prime Minister said, We have no doubt that this vision is within reach. Through concerted efforts, we will establish integrated and inter-connected corridors of trade and transport. He said that Pakistan had also been engaged in capacity building of Afghanistans state institutions in the fields of diplomacy, law enforcement, judiciary, agriculture, counter narcotics, customs and medical and paramedical services. He said among regional frameworks, Pakistan is a leading participant in ECOs endeavours for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Gilani also referred to his meeting with President Karzai in August last in Colombo, where the two democratic governments agreed to jointly bring about a fundamental transformation in the bilateral relationship. He mentioned that jirga process had been revived in line with the aspirations of the people of the two countries. The Prime Minister hoped that Afghan refugees would return home with dignity and honour and be rehabilitated at their own motherland safely. He said that the struggle against terrorism was a struggle for a profound vision for a better tomorrow. It is a struggle for hearts and minds, one in which dialogue and development must be the most potent tools, he added. Prime Minister Gilani said that after long years of conflict and suffering, people of Afghanistan and the region deserve security and stability. They deserve stronger institutions, effective governance, respite from narcotics trade, meaningful reconstruction and sustainable economic development and they deserve a healing process also, he added. Gilani said that the regional dimension of Afghanistans development strategy warranted closer attention. The Prime Minister said as EU and ASEAN enjoy intra-regional trade levels of 67 and 23 per cent respectively, ECO and SAARC regions register levels barely above five per cent. He also stressed the need to change this situation significantly. We need to expand intra-regional trade substantially by, among other means, expeditious implementation of the Economic Coordination Organization Trade Agreement and other regional trade arrangements, he said. Gilani said that there was a need to re-negotiate Transit Trade Agreements and strengthen the Trans-Afghan road and rail links. He said that there was a need to put in place region-wide frameworks on energy and food security, adding that border areas had to be developed through creation of trans-border economic zones. These plans should be implemented through project-based cooperation, grounded in public-private partnerships with the full engagement of Pak-Afghan corporate sectors, he added. Gilani also said Pakistan welcomed the renewed focus on trans-regional development. He said the RECCA process, by bringing together various stakeholders on a single forum, was an important plank to advance the regional development agenda. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said that Afghanistan and Pakistan have to work together to defeat a wildfire of terrorism sweeping the region and frustrating economic development. Karzai said many factors hampered cooperation such as inadequate physical infrastructure and inconsistent policies. But ... perhaps by far the most menacing challenge to the regions prosperity today is extremism and terrorism. Violence in Afghanistan has surged to its worst level since US-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, despite increasing numbers of foreign troops. Pakistan has also seen growing violence as militants allied with the Afghan Taliban step up attacks across the country. The Pakistani army launched a major offensive against Pakistani Taliban in a northwestern region last week. Trucks have been burnt, drivers killed and merchandise has been looted and set on fire, Karzai said. Such terrorist atrocities have had a serious effect on trade and commerce. The current situation has become intolerable for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is time to combine our energies and make sure the forces of mayhem and death are defeated once and for all, Karzai said. It is time to take back our values and villages from terrorists. Its time to get serious about keeping our roads open to trade. Later, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. Both the leaders in the meeting expressed their resolve to root out militants and terrorists from their respective sides of the Pak-Afghan border. During the meeting that took place at the PM House, President Karzai stated that Kabul supported Islamabads efforts against terrorism and his government would also launch an operation in Afghanistan similar to that of Pakistan against these elements in the immediate future. Both leaders also discussed the ways and means to enhance the mechanism for intelligence sharing, cooperation in the defence field and strengthening of people to people contacts through increased parliamentary exchanges. The Prime Minister said that successful meeting of Third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Islamabad was reflective of Pakistans commitment to support the development of Afghanistan by every possible means. He termed RECCA meeting as a major landmark not only for greatly strengthening relations with Afghanistan under the democratic government in Pakistan but also for overall peace, stability and economic prosperity of the region. The Prime Minister shared with the Afghan President of his governments steadfast commitment to do every thing necessary to sustain the new spirit of relationship between Islamabad and Kabul through development of regional infrastructure and integrated border management system as well as further improving bilateral trade and economic ties. President Karzai agreed with the Prime Minister that continuous drone attacks had only served to the detriment of government of Pakistans 3-D strategy meant to isolate the militants from the tribes. He appreciated government of Pakistans assistance and its constructive role in the development of Afghanistan and termed the continued strong Pakistan-Afghanistan friendship as vitally important for peace, stability and prosperity of his country. Besides President Karzai and Premier Gilani, the meeting was also attended by the foreign ministers of the two countries and Chief of Army Staff. The overall security situation of the region came under discussion during that meeting. Earlier, addressing at a luncheon hosted in the honour of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Prime Minister Gilani said the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan was an important step towards bringing stability, peace and prosperity to the country. Gilani said the democratic government had brought fundamental transformation in the bilateral relations between the two countries. He terming Pakistan as a second home for the Afghans said his country was committed to further strengthen its ties with Afghanistan. President Karzai, who was here on a daylong visit, said the prosperity of Afghanistan and Pakistan was interlinked. We are linked to each other by tragedies of life, he added. He said Afghanistan had been grateful to the people of Pakistan for the last three decades for looking after its refugees, adding, The Afghans will never forget that. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta and other members of Afghan delegation also attended the luncheon. From Pakistani side, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Defence Ch Ahmed Mukhtar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Minister for Industries Manzoor Wattoo, Minister for Planning and development Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Governor NWFP Owais Ghani, parliamentarians and diplomats were present on the occasion. Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while addressing the heads of delegations of RECCA said that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to fast-track conclusion of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement before the end of the current year. He informed that the two countries had also agreed to set up a joint Pak-Afghan Transit Trade Coordination Committee to coordinate and resolve all issues relating to cross-border commerce and inland trade. He said that in the domain of energy trade, the Central-South Asia Regional Electricity Market Initiative had made appreciable headway. A concrete understanding has been reached on the first phase of this project, CASA 1000, with key partner - the World Bank during the just concluded visit to Washington, he added. We are confident that with the support of the international financial institutions, the project will reach early fruition, Qureshi said adding that Pakistan felt that congruent socio-economic conditions placed Afghanistans neighbours in a suitable position to build capacity of Afghan institutions and offer Afghans quality education at competitive prices. To this end, Qureshi said, Pakistan has announced award of 1000 scholarships to Afghan students in Pakistans institutes of higher learning. We are also proposing setting up of regional vocational training centres. Such centres will yield tangible results in short period of time at affordable investment, he added. The government of Pakistan is also actively considering an Afghan request concerning medical treatment facilities for Afghan patients in Pakistan, he said. We have to especially focus on promoting multi dimensional development cooperation with Afghanistan, including capacity building, strengthening trans-regional development cooperation, promoting trans-border cooperation with Afghanistan, rehabilitation of Afghan refugees and the role of important regional organisations like ECO, SCO, SAARC and the EU in this entire endeavour, the minister said.