Bhurban: Senior Afghan leaders called for dialogue and reconciliation for the peaceful future of Afghanistan and the whole region at ‘Afghan Peace Conference” hosted by Pakistan in the summer resort town of Bhurban on Saturday.
As many as 40 veteran Afghan leaders who gathered in Pakistan agreed that intra-Afghan dialogue is essential to bring the country out of four decades of war and thanked neighbouring Pakistan for facilitating the Afghan peace process.
The inaugural session of the conference on Afghan peace titled ‘Lahore Process’ in Bhurban, was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who said that peace and stability in Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own national interest.
“We remain firmly committed to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.” Pakistan, he said, is determined to build bilateral relationship on the” principles of non-interference, mutual respect and common interest.” Qureshi added that “We support an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself, and at peace with its neighbours.”
Addressing the issues of mistrust between the two countries, he said “The blame-game has not helped either of us. We must take practical steps to build mutual trust and confidence.”
Among Afghan politicians who attended the conference were Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, High Peace Council (HPC) Chairman Mohammad Karim Khalili, presidential candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar, second deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram and others.
Addressing the delegates, Hekmatyar urged different factions of Afghanistan to develop consensus for peace. Talking to Gulf News, Hekmatyar said “The Conference offered Afghan leaders [from different sides] an opportunity to sit together to resolve the conflict.”
He acknowledged Pakistan’s positive role in convincing to bring Taliban to the negotiating table. “The future of Afghanistan however has to be decided with the consensus of Afghan people” he added.
Hanif Atmar, former Afghan National Security Adviser, said the Afghan leaders are attending the conference as the two neighbouring countries have shared responsibility to address regional challenges.
Urging Pakistan and Afghanistan to enhance cooperation in diverse areas, he said, “the shared understanding and commitment between the two countries should be put into practice to begin a new chapter during upcoming visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.”
Sharing the vision of peace of Afghanistan, Atmar said, “We want peace with Taliban but not with terrorists,” adding that the Afghan leaders “strongly believe that intra-Afghan dialogue is essential [for peace].” Pakistan, he said, has a significant role in facilitating the peace process.
Other Afghan leaders also urged a peaceful settlement between Afghan politicians and Taliban.
Most Afghan leaders backed Taliban demands for withdrawal of foreign troops.
Another important participant, Ustad Ata Noor, said, “Afghanistan must reach a political consensus to end decades-long conflict and bring peace and stability to the region.” He added that it would be better if Taliban had also joined the Lahore Process.
Mohammad Karim Khalili said that “there is no way except peace and understanding for stability in Afghanistan” and this peace process can be accelerated with the efforts of friends of Afghanistan such as Pakistan.
The summit was organised by Lahore Centre for Peace Research (LCPR) and the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI).