Pakistan on Saturday hosted a day-long Afghan peace conference, ahead of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Islamabad next week.
According to Pakistani officials, Ghani is likely to pay a visit to Islamabad on June 27.
The conference was jointly organized by the Lahore Center for Peace and Research (LCPR) and the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) in Pakistan’s scenic town of Bhurban.
Addressing the participants at the start of the conference, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed the prominent Afghan political and religious leaders and said his country remains “firmly committed to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan”.
"Pakistan has whole-heartedly facilitated the Afghan peace process in good faith and as a shared responsibility and will continue playing its due role," he said.
Qureshi recalled that Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for over four decades, calling it “a testimony to the closeness as well as the sense of duty our people feel towards our Afghan brothers and sisters.”
He said Pakistan is “determined to build bilateral relationship on the principle of noninterference, mutual respect and common interest”.
Referring to the ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S., the foreign minister said Afghanistan is at the cross-road of peace and stability and the renewed push for peace has created a new opportunity and every effort must be made to seize it.
Speaking at the conference, former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar thanked Pakistani premier Imran Khan for providing an opportunity to Afghan politicians to sit together and to discuss the peace in Afghanistan and whole region.
"Some forces are creating hurdles in good relations between Islamabad and Kabul but both side should join hands and work together to bring sustainable peace in the region," Hekmatyar observed .
“Let’s shake hands and work together to bring peace in the region,” he added.
Mohammad Hanif Atmar, an Afghan presidential candidate, appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in the peace process and said Afghans are ready to talks with Taliban.
"We want to talk to Taliban and they should show flexibility to bring peace in Afghanistan," Atmar said.
Mohammad Mohaqiq, deputy chief executive officer of Afghanistan, said Pakistan and Afghanistan are “two brother and no one could separate brothers from each other”.
"We should resolve our issues through talks," Mohaqeq said, adding Pakistan helped Afghan people during the Soviet aggression and they would never forget that.
Absence of Taliban representatives
Former Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor, felt the absence of Taliban leaders in the conference and said it would be better if Taliban leaders were also present in the conference.
He called on Islamabad and Kabul to start a new beginning of “brotherly” relations and forget the past.
"I am worrying about the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan and this threat could be eliminated if we all join hands," Atta told the participants.
According to the organizers of the conference, they invited the Taliban’s political office leadership, to attend the conference, however, they were unable to come to Pakistan as the new round of talks between Taliban and U.S. are likely to begin in Doha.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s Qatar office spokesman, also confirmed that their representatives did not participate in the conference.
However, Suhail refused to comment on receiving any invitation from the organizers.
The conference was also attended by representatives of First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, head of Afghan High Peace Council Mohammad Karim Khalili, former lawmaker Fawzia Koofi, Pir Hamid Gilani, Wali Masood -- brother of Ahmad Shah Masood -- and others.
The Afghan politicians are also expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi during their stay in Islamabad.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.