ISLAMABAD    -  Afghanistan yesterday acknowledged Pakistan played a key role regarding the peace process in the war-torn country.

The visiting Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, said THAT Pakistan’s role in the Afghanistan peace process was central and important.

Speaking at a conference in the Institute of Strategic Studies here, the Afghan leader said that Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoyed brotherly relations and that establishment of peace in the region was vital for both the countries. “Pakistan and Afghanistan need to work together for better chances of development and economic growth. We have to learn from our benefits and damages,” he said.

Abdullah said Afghanistan believed in equal rights for everyone. The HCNR Chairman said the start of negotiations between Afghan government and the Taliban was an important opportunity. He said the negotiating team had been asked to be patient and be ready to make compromises. “We must thank Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees. We share (Pakistan’s) idea of their dignified return,” he added.

Abdullah Abdullah said his country will not allow any terror entity to pose a threat to any other nation.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the conference. He said as Chairman of Afghanistan Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah had the most challenging job of his career. 

“I wish him well because in his success lies our success. We urge the need of engagement, connections and exchanging of views honestly in a candid manner. I had an extensive meeting with Abdullah Abdullah yesterday with particular focus on peace in Afghanistan,” he added.

Qureshi emphasized that Pakistan respected the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan. He categorically said Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan and Islamabad does not want to meddle in its internal affairs.

As the intra-Afghan dialogues are continuing, Qureshi said Pakistan will “accept the will of the people of Afghanistan. Pakistan believes that only the Afghan people can determine their future and it cannot be imposed on them.” 

He said all sides will have to work together for a peaceful, prosperous and stable Afghanistan. 

Qureshi said the commencement of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban was a unique and historic opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. “Reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire is a necessity for peace in the country,” he added.

The Foreign Minister also emphasized the need for greater collaboration between the two countries in different fields to build a common future.

He said that peace in Afghanistan was a prerequisite for regional stability and development. However, he warned against the elements conspiring against the intra-Afghan peace process. He further said that Pakistan wanted honourable return of Afghan refugees to their home country.

The FM said that now the international community was supporting and acknowledging political solution for Afghan issue. He urged the leadership of Afghanistan to seize this opportunity of peace in the country.

FM Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan had accepted invitation for Afghanistan visit by President Ashraf Ghani during a telephonic conversation between two leaders on September 25.

Pakistan has been a key player in setting up direct negotiations, first between the United States and the Taliban – which has been fighting Afghan forces since it was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001 – and again in facilitating the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue process in the Qatari capital.

Last day, Abdullah said that process was continuing to move forward, after facing several hurdles at the outset.

In an article published in the Washington Post, Prime Minister Imran Khan also reiterated the need for the Afghan peace process to move forward but added that it would be a slow process.

In Islamabad, Abdullah and Qureshi met for delegation-level talks on September 28, with both sides affirming their commitment to strengthening bilateral ties.

“We want to be friends, not masters,” said Qureshi. “And that’s the paradigm shift, and that’s the new realisation and recognition that if we have to coexist in peace and build a common future.”

Abdullah will continue his visit to Pakistan today (September 30), meeting Prime Minister Khan, President Arif Alvi and several other senior officials and leaders before departing for Kabul.