ISLAMABAD - Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar yesterday said that the Afghans consider Pakistan as their second home.

Speaking to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi here, the visiting Afghan leader acknowledged Pakistan had been playing its reconciliatory role in the Afghan peace process with sincerity.

Foreign Minister Qureshi told the Afghan leader that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been repeatedly saying the only way for durable peace in Afghanistan was Afghan-owned political dialogue. “We are happy that Pakistan’s perspective is being appreciated at global level today,” he added.

Qureshi said peace and stability in the region was linked to long-lasting peace in Afghanistan. He said the Afghan leadership has a unique opportunity in the form of intra-Afghan talks to restore peace in Afghanistan.

The FM said Pakistan will continue its efforts for peace in the region, including Afghanistan.

Qureshi welcomed the delegation and underscored the historic ties of amity and brotherhood between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s desire to further strengthen the close fraternal relations between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister emphasized that Pakistan has always supported a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

He added that Pakistan facilitated the process that culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on February 29, 2020 and supported the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations.

He stressed the importance of an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.

He underscored that all parties must honour their respective commitments and work for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire. “The Afghan leaders must seize this historic opportunity to achieve durable and sustainable peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

The Foreign Minister also underlined the importance of exercising vigilance and guarding against the role of ‘spoilers,’ both within and outside.

He highlighted the steps taken by Pakistan to support Afghanistan on its path to reconstruction and economic development as well as for improved transit and bilateral trade relations.

The Foreign Minister underlined the importance of making the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour a part of the peace process.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrived earlier in the day on a three-day visit to Pakistan for talks. He is accompanied by a delegation.

Weeks earlier, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman, Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation had visited Pakistan appreciated Pakistan’s efforts with regards to the Afghan peace process.

He had praised Pakistan’s recent string of confidence-building measures as the Afghan government and the Taliban try to finalise a peace deal.

Hekmatyar, a veteran Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) leader has already expressed his willingness to form an alliance with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Hezb-e-Islami is ready for direct talks with the Taliban, as well as for partnership and cooperation. We believe that if these two groups join hands, the crisis in Afghanistan will end soon and no force will be able to stand against it,” he told supporters at the party’s headquarters in Kabul over the weekend.