Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s speech at the inaugural session of the “Lahore Process” – a summit to discuss aspects of the Afghan peace process that go beyond just negotiating with the Afghan Taliban – stated Pakistan’s stance on the situation in Afghanistan very clearly and unequivocally. Reiterating the call for an Afghan-led and owned peace, one of the most important points of the Foreign Minister’s address was the outright dismissal of the strategic depth policy and the importance of peace in Afghanistan to its eastern neighbour.

The significance of the Lahore Process cannot be understated; with the pull-out of foreign troops a key demand of the Afghan Taliban, what comes after is also a significant discussion point in the move for peace, and the Afghan Taliban and the US cannot be the sole decision-makers in that respect. The attendance of representatives of all Afghan political parties, members of the senate, the Afghan parliament and government at the Lahore Process will hence facilitate in providing a voice to all stakeholders in the long-term plan for peace in the country and the region.

Issues such as the repatriation of Afghan refugees, increased connectivity, improved healthcare and more trade to foster economic growth are all part of the Lahore Process, which makes it a more holistic round of talks than the negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and US; which of course, while crucial, are not the only subjects of discussion that the international community must engage in, to see a peaceful resolution to the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.

With discussions currently at a vital stage between both parties, there are ongoing discussions to follow up the next round of talks in Doha in July with an intra-Afghan dialogue. Any achievements made in the negotiation process since it began must culminate in a discussion between the Afghans on how the country will progress in the future and for this, negotiations between the government and the Afghan Taliban are imperative.

This moot comes a week before President Ashraf Ghani’s scheduled visit to Pakistan and any progress made will be positive in setting the tone in the meeting between the Afghan President and Prime Minister Imran Khan. If the government can successfully address the Afghan government’s misgivings and the mutual lack of trust alongside offering tangible steps to be taken in various sectors such as the economy and public services, we might just see both countries heading in an encouraging direction in their relationship.