Press Release – Public Talk by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman, High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

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PRESS RELEASE
Public Talk Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman, High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

September 29, 2020

“The time is now to define a new vision, address outstanding issues as well as our shared interests and realize that peace and stability in Afghanistan or any country for that matter can have far reaching consequences and trickle effects.” This was stated by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman, High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during his address at a Public Talk organized by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) today under its Distinguished Lecture Series. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Honourable Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq were also in attendance. Members of the diplomatic corps in Islamabad, academics, civil society, and former and current diplomats were also present.

Dr. Abdullah stated that Pakistan and Afghanistan  are at the threshold of a new era of bilateral relations based on mutual respect and shared prosperity. The current negotiations are an important opportunity. Peace and prosperity in both Pakistan and Afghanistan are interdependent. He said  there was a need  to  go beyond the rhetoric and the usual conspiracy theories,  as one  cannot afford to pursue dissolution. It is now more urgent than ever to look towards our region as one. We need to take into account the current geo-political shifts and draw necessary lessons about our gains, losses, threats and opportunities. We should aim to reduce tensions, promote moderation, increase regional connectivity, trade, transit, economic integration, business to business and more importantly, people to people interactions.

Concerning Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations, Dr. Abduallah said that both sides  have discussed practical issues, concerns and common interests and will continue to do so in the future. He appreciated the important  role Pakistan has played in the Afghan peace process and envisaged a peaceful future for the  region..  He concluded by saying that patience is needed and  welcomed PM Imran Khan’s statement about ending violence and working toward a ceasefire in Afghanistan.

During his remarks, Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that Dr. Abdullah, as Chairman of the HCNR has the most challenging job of his career. In his success lies Pakistan’s success. He said that it is important that the leadership of Pakistan and Afghanistan engage and exchange views, frankly, honestly and in a candid manner. There should be particular focus on how to steer the peace process forward. The timing of Dr. Abdullah’s visit is significant because it is taking place after a number of historic events. There is now a new international environment, which is supportive of a peace process. He was of the view  that a realisation has evolved over the years that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. This voice, though previously often not heard, has finally been heard.

Foreign Minister further stated that today there is recognition that a negotiated political settlement is the only and best way forward. Today, the reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire is a prerequisite for peace. He went on to say that Afghans and only Afghans can determine the future of Afghanistan. He concluded by stating that the road ahead is going to be bumpy, however, all sides will have to work for it, as the name of the game is patience.

Ambassador Sadiq, Special Representative for Afghanistan , stated that Dr. Abdullah’s visit is taking place at a time when there is progress in both the peace process and Pak-Afghan bilateral relations. He stated that both these tracks are mutually inclusive. In Afghanistan, violence has raged for decades and attaining peace is a herculean task. Inclusive and broad based political settlement is the only wise option. To negotiate peace, he said all sides will  need to work diligently with a view to addressing all the issues including bumps that will come in the way of intra-Afghan negotiations. Wars can be fought by many, peace can only be strategized only by a few. With Dr. Abdullah in the saddle, the peace process is in safe hands.

Earlier, in his welcome remarks, Director General ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry talked about how in Pakistan, there is a consensus that a peaceful, stable, independent, sovereign, and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and the region.. He commended Dr. Abdullah by stating that he has undertaken an onerous responsibility to help stitch peace in Afghanistan. He said  that there was  recognition  that securing peace will not be easy,  however, time has never been more opportune for peace.

While concluding the event, Chairman BoG ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood said that in the ongoing negotiations, interests of the Afghan people must be a top priority. He stated  that Pakistan fully supports all efforts toward peace in Afghanistan. This visit by Dr Abdullah reiterates the warm friendship and deep bond between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We fervently hope that with Dr. Abdullah’s visit, our bilateral exchanges would gain further momentum.