Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Pakistan sincerely supported the peace process and a prosperous, stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of the region in general and Pakistan in particular, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
The military’s media wing said that the army chief expressed these remarks during a meeting with US Charge d’ Affairs to Pakistan Angela Aggeler. During the huddle, matters of mutual interest, overall regional security situation, bilateral cooperation in various fields, fight against Covid-19 and recent developments in the Afghan peace process were discussed.
“Pakistan has sincerely supported the peace process and a prosperous, stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of the region in general and Pakistan in particular,” the ISPR quoted General Qamar as saying.
He hoped for greater Pak-US bilateral cooperation in all domains in future, it added.
The US dignitary acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan’s continuous efforts and support for peace and stability in the region and pledged to further enhance bilateral relations between both countries.
The meeting was held a day after General Qamar’s daylong visit to Kabul during which he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah.
He was also accompanied by UK Chief of Defence Sir Nicholas Patrick Carter and Director General of the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.
Army chief assured the Afghan leadership of Pakistan’s support for “inclusive power-sharing arrangement” and “elections as a right of Afghans to self-determination.”
The visit came just days after US and other international forces started withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Since the beginning of the drawdown, which is set to complete by September 11, there has been a sudden spike in violence in Afghanistan.
With the Afghan Taliban reluctant to join the peace process, the increased violence has threatened further instability in Afghanistan, something that may have a spillover impact on its neighbours, including Pakistan. Against this backdrop, the visit of army chief is seen as crucial.
The presence of UK’s chief of defence in talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suggested that Britain was playing some kind of a guarantor between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In March, the army chief had held talks with the Afghan civil and military authorities in Bahrain. That meeting was also attended by the UK’s chief of defence.
In the meeting with President Ghani, the army chief reiterated that a peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful region in general and a peaceful Pakistan in particular. “We will always support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process based on the mutual consensus of all stakeholders,” the military’s media wing said in a statement.
The Afghan president thanked the army chief for a “meaningful discussion and appreciated Pakistan’s sincere and positive role in the Afghan peace process”
The army chief also met Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan and discussed matters related to the Afghan peace process.
“Gen Bajwa assured that Pakistan supports an inclusive power-sharing arrangement & elections as a right of Afghans to self-determination,” Abdullah said in a series of tweets while welcoming the army chief.
The discussion, he said, focused on the current state of the Afghan peace process and on ways to build and accelerate momentum towards reduction in the violence leading to a permanent ceasefire and continued inter-Afghan talks.
The Afghan Taliban have announced a three-day ceasefire on the occasion of Eidul Fitr, a move welcomed by Pakistan, but the Afghan government insists the truce should be permanent.
The Afghan High Peace Council chief acknowledged that there was no military solution to the Afghan crises.
We stressed the restart of meaningful talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban by aiming for an inclusive and comprehensive political settlement.” Abdullah said.
“I pointed out that the Taliban have yet to fully use this unique opportunity for talks and peace. Any attempt to use force will worsen the stalemate and shore up public opposition,” Abdullah added.
He appreciated Pakistan’s constructive role and urged all sides to aim for “what is possible as we take steps towards a durable, just and an acceptable political settlement”.
The US forces were supposed to leave Afghanistan by May 1 as part of the agreement signed in Doha in February 2020. However, after coming to power, President Biden reviewed the deal and extended the deadline.
The Istanbul Conference is now being rescheduled after Eid with Pakistan and other players trying to persuade the Taliban to attend the talks.
Pakistan is pushing for a political settlement as it fears that renewed civil war will threatened its security.