LAHORE   -    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday was greeted with warm welcome in Lahore on the second day of his Pakistan visit,

The high-profile visit is most likely to open a “new chapter of friendship” between Pakistan and Afghanistan as Kabul has been struggling to end the 18-year war despite massive military operations against terror outfits.

President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan comes barely a few days after Islamabad hosted a high-level parley for Afghan opposition leaders in Bhurban under the chair of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who called for building trust between the neighbouring countries.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar received the Afghan President as he landed at the Lahore airport on Friday. On his arrival, children presented bouquets to Ashraf Ghani.

The provincial metropolis was partially sealed as part of the security strategy. Hundreds of police and traffic officers were put on their toes to ensure foolproof security during the VVIP movement in the sprawling metropolis.

The roadblocks triggered worst traffic mess particularly in the areas adjacent to the Mall Road.

President Ghani also held a one-on-one meeting with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar at the Governor’s House.  Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar served lunch in the hour of the visiting President. According to a Press release issued from the Governor’s House, President Ghani also met with the investors and experts in education sector.

“He offered Juma prayer at the Governor;s House alongwith Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar,” an official of the provincial government said.

On this occasion, Governor Muhammad Sarwar said, “We welcome a new chapter of friendship between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Pakistan fully supports Afghan-led and afghan-owned peace process, he said, adding, that Pakistan’s Armed Forces and personnel of law-enforcement agencies have sacrificed countless lives while fighting terrorism.”

“Terrorists and their abettors do not belong to a particular country or a particular nation; they are against humanity and it is necessary to eliminate their networks for peace in the region,” the Punjab Governor said.

“A peaceful and strengthened Pakistan needs peaceful neighbourhood and road to peace in Kabul goes through Islamabad,” the Punjab Governor said.

“We are facilitating Afghan Government in our fullest capacity to bring peace and stability there.”

Earlier, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar welcomed the Afghan President as he alongwith his high-powered delegation reached the Governor’s House.  “A detailed meeting was held between Afghan President and Governor Punjab Muhammad Sarwar in which matters pertaining to Pak-Afghan relations, security situation in the region, regional peace, terrorism, trade and other issues were discussed.” The members of the visiting delegation were also present in this meeting.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, provincial Information Minister Syed Samsam Bukhari, Provincial Minister for Housing Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, Provincial Minister for Tourism and Higher Education Yasir Hamayun, Member Punjab Assembly Syed Yawar Bukhari, Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly Sardar Dost Mazari, Chief Secretary, Punjab IGP were also attended the lunch.

While speaking at the luncheon reception, Governor Muhammad Sarwar said, “We welcome you to the cultural capital of Punjab. Pakistan and Afghanistan are not mere neighbours; we are more than that, we are connected by Muslim bond of brotherhood.”

The Governor said that it is an undisputed fact that Pakistan has played a very positive role in bringing peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan as Pakistan is in favour of the political solution of Afghan problem and has been a great proponent of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

“We believe a peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan, a strengthened and peaceful Pakistan needs peaceful Afghanistan,” the Governor said.

“Unfortunately terrorism has become the greatest cause of concern in this region, for which our Pakistan Armed Forces, personnel of law enforcement agencies and civilians have laid a large number of lives.”

Now, the need of the hour is to intensify our collective battle against terrorists and their abettors and it becomes obligatory upon other regional countries to contribute towards the elimination of terrorism, he added.  “Truly, we hope that with your visit, both of our countries would come close to each other and will enhance bilateral engagement through increased mutual cooperation,” the Governor said.

While talking to Punjab Governor, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “I am greatly obliged and thankful for the love, hospitality and affection which have been displayed here at Governor House in my honour.”

The Afghan President said that his meetings with President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan have been very successful and his forward looking approach has been appreciated by all.

“InshaAllah Pak-Afghan ties will get more strengthened in future and our trade relations will also get a boost,” President Ghani announced.

Meanwhile, the Afghan President also visited the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort amid heightened security measures.  Officials are hopeful that the wide-ranging talks between Islamabad and Kabul are based on strengthening bilateral cooperation in various fields including trade, peace and reconciliation, and education and people-to-people exchanges.