ISLAMABAD   -    The United States has appreciated Pakistan for improving the trust level with Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani completed his two-day Pakistan visit yesterday.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the US had contacted Pakistan through the diplomatic channels and welcomed the Pak-Afghan talks at the highest level.

“The US is happy that the peace process is moving forward. The issue of mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a main concern for the US. They are happy we are improving it (trust level),” said one official.

Another official said Islamabad and Washington were on talks to fix a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald trump. “In principle the meeting is on. This will happen soon. Talks are on to finalise a schedule,” he added.

Yesterday, Pakistan decided to extend the stay of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 30 next year. The decision by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions came during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and just before the June 30 deadline.

“In pursuance of approval of the Federal Cabinet conveyed vide Cabinet Division’s Memorandum No.550(S)/Rule-19/2019-Cab, dated 27 June, 2019, the Government of Pakistan is pleased to extend the Validity in respect of Tripartite Agreement, Proof of Registration (PoR) Cards till 30-06-2020,” read the notification.

The ministry also announced an extension in the validity of Afghan Citizen Cards till October 31, 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan also informed the President Ghani about the government’s decision.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says there are 1,405,715 registered Afghan refugees and 210,465 Afghan families in Pakistan as of June 3, 2019.

The UN refugee agency defines registered Afghans as those who have valid Proof of Registration cards issued by the Pakistani government. Earlier, President Ashraf Ghani underlined clarity of vision, honesty and good strategy in order to further boost Pak-Afghan relations. He said two items were crucial for the Afghan government including the normalisation of relations with Pakistan, and to find a political solution to the conflict in and around Afghanistan.    

Ghani said private investment, grants, loans and bonds and joint budgetary commitments are important and task forces at both the leadership and administrative levels should be in place.         

Yesterday, the Afghanistan President met Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. During the meetings, matters of mutual interest and cooperation for promotion of peace were discussed.

This week, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to open a ‘new chapter of friendship’ and partnership based on mutual trust.

Pakistan told the visiting Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani that Islamabad supported the reconciliation process in Afghanistan and warned Kabul to stay away from trouble makers.

The two countries agreed to cooperate based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

During a one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Ashraf Ghani here, it was decided to remain in contact and work jointly for peace. Ghani also met President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The Afghan President was accompanied by a high-level delegation including ministers, advisors, senior officials and businessmen.

The main one-on-one meeting with PM Khan was followed by delegation-level talks. The two leaders exchanged views on the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Khan said that Pakistan had “no favourite” in the upcoming presidential elections. The PM, who met a delegation of senior Afghan leaders leading different groups here, said Pakistan respected the Afghan People’s right to elect their leadership.

The Afghan leaders had earlier participated in the Lahore Peace Process organised by the Lahore Centre for Peace and Research in Murree.  Fifty-seven Afghan politicians, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, Second Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, and presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram, attended the peace conference in Pakistan.

The presidential election scheduled for September 28 will be a key moment to reaffirm the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s democratic political structure. There are significant operational and technical challenges to be overcome.

President Ghani had undertaken a bilateral visit to Pakistan in November 2014 and later came to attend the Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in Islamabad in December 2015.