ISLAMABAD   -  Chief Adviser to Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani on National Security Sarwar Ahmedzai on Friday said that Afghans were looking forward to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to the US as it would prove beneficial for the Afghan peace process.

Addressing a joint press conference here at the Press Information Department along with State Minister for States & Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Shehryar Khan Afridi, Ahmedzai said the Afghan government had requested all regional and global partners to play their part in the peace process.

“The recent dialogue between parties to the Afghan conflict has been very productive and we are looking forward to PM Imran Khan’s maiden visit to the US,” he added.

He also said it was on his special request that Pakistan had decided to open airspace between Kabul and New Delhi which, he hoped, would greatly help mitigate hardships being faced by Afghan citizens.

Briefing the media on weeklong trip of Afghan delegation to Pakistan, Shehryar Afridi said the visit was a follow-up on Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Pakistan to expedite implementation on the decisions agreed between the two countries.

Shehryar said that Afghanistan and Pakistan had opened a new chapter of friendly relations and the people of both the countries would not allow negative elements to create misunderstandings between them through “fifth generation and hybrid warfare.”

During the visit, the Afghan delegation held talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi, chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, ministers for SAFRON and overseas Pakistanis, minister of interior, representatives of UNODC and UNHCR etc.

“I also took the delegation on a visit to Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar and they themselves saw the facilities being provided to the refugees. Since Sarwar Ahmedzai himself lived in refugee camps, and his family still lives there, he could better understand the type of facilities being provided to the refugees,” the state minister said, and added, “Let me tell you that the blame game era is over and Pakistan and Afghanistan have entered into a new era of friendly relations.”

Afridi said that Ahmedzai, in his meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, had requested him to allow the opening of Pakistani airspace for flights between New Delhi and Kabul. The minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately approved opening of the airspace while 1.4 million Afghan refugees had also been allowed to open their bank accounts.

The minister said that both the countries had agreed to take all necessary measures to ensure immediate and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees. He said that since 85 percent of world’s drugs were produced in Afghanistan, both the countries had agreed to adopt a joint strategy to get rid of the menace.

Afridi urged the world donors to come forward and provide alternative options to the poppy growers of Afghanistan. 

Addressing the media, Ahmedzai said that his visit to Pakistan was facilitated by Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib. “I am thankful to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Shehryar Afridi as well as to all those through whose assistance I was able to convince Pakistan government to open the airspace,” he added.

Ahmedzai said that the government of Pakistan had also assured him to review the visa facility for Afghan nationals who had to stand in queues for hours to get Pakistani visa. “Around 10,000 Afghans apply for visa daily in order to visit Pakistan,” chief adviser to Afghan president said that he along with Shehryar Afridi had also visited two refugee camps, basic health units and schools. “It is heartening to note that Pak-Afghan relations are improving with the new government taking charge in Pakistan. I was happy to see the sentiments of Afghan refugees in camps. This is just a beginning and we will keep building on this foundation,” Ahmedzai vowed. 

“We are looking forward to a new relationship with the new Pakistani government,” he said.

Responding to a question about incidents of violence that had followed Pak-Afghan cricket World Cup match; Ahmedzai said that Afghan cricket team had learned the art from camps in Pakistan. “Some isolated incidents can’t represent the sentiments of entire nation. Pakistan has hosted refugees for over 40 years which is unprecedented. We value this generosity and Afghans can’t forget it,” he added. 

When asked about the steps being taken to repatriate Afghan refugees, he said the land acquisition process for their repatriation had commenced. “This process will continue and things will move on,” he concluded.