Pakistan welcomes Afghanistan's offer of peace talks

By Ashfaq Yusufzai

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the nation from Kabul on September 1, the first day of Eid ul Adha. [Courtesy of Afghan Presidential Palace]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the nation from Kabul on September 1, the first day of Eid ul Adha. [Courtesy of Afghan Presidential Palace]

PESHAWAR -- Pakistani politicians are welcoming Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's call to hold peace talks with Pakistan, saying it is a golden opportunity to join hands against militants and establish peace for the sake of the people living on both sides of the border.

"We are ready for comprehensive political talks," Ghani said during his Eid ul Adha message on September 1. "Peace with Pakistan is Afghanistan's national agenda, an honourable peace that is the outcome of a [political process]."

Islamabad is willing to join hands with Kabul for the sake of peace and stability in the region, said Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif a day later.

"Pakistan's position in the context of Afghanistan is very clear… we want to see peace and stability in Afghanistan and for that Pakistan will contribute and play its due role in all the initiatives taken to that end," Asif said, according to a statement by the Foreign Office.

"We already have bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral mechanisms for dialogue and interaction with Afghanistan in place," he said. "Those mechanisms should be utilised to their full potential."

During recent interactions, he said, "both sides recognised the need for co-operation".

Boosting bilateral relations

Pakistani political leaders welcome the two sides' steps towards dialogue.

"A comprehensive negotiation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the only way to improve their troubled relationship," National Assembly member Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's chief whip in the Assembly, told Pakistan Forward.

Both countries have suffered immensely at the hands of militants and now the two neighbours must join forces to establish peace, she said. "The co-operation between militancy stricken countries can lead to peace that will benefit both nations."

"We have long been urging peace talks between the two countries to end the terrorism that has spanned more than a quarter century," Mazari said.

"We welcome Ghani's offer for peace talks, and the government shouldn't waste time to start negotiations," she said.

Ghani's offer to start negotiations with Pakistan is a positive step that will reduce tensions between the two countries, said Awami National Party president Asfandyar Wali Khan.

Bilateral talks could end mistrust between the two countries, he said, according to local media.

"Pakistan should take the initiative in this regard. Kabul and Islamabad should take bold steps to improve ties," he said, according to TOLO News, adding that unity among Pashtuns is essential and that foreign elements should stop interfering in the region.

In the past few years, Taliban militants have taken advantage of the strained relations between the two neighbouring countries, Khan said. There should be no delay in starting peace talks and creating a joint effort to block insurgents, he said.

Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao also welcomed Afghanistan's offer of an olive branch to Pakistan.

Friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are essential for sustainable peace in the region, he said, according to local media.

Eliminating militant sanctuaries

Sanctuaries on both sides of the border have allowed militancy to thrive in the region, according to Abdur Rehman, a professor at the Pakistan Study Centre at the University of Peshawar.

"An effective alliance against militants by Pakistan and Afghanistan can bring results," he told Pakistan Forward. "When both countries swing into action, they can defeat various militant groups."

People on both sides of the Durand Line are sick of terrorism and want an end to the crisis that has made them hostages for the past few decades, he said.

"There should be a permanent solution to do away with the violence once and for all," he said.

Mirza Khan, an Afghan refugee who sells fruit in Board Bazaar Peshawar, said he was overwhelmed by Ghani's statement.

"Both governments should sit together to end the problems faced by the population," he told Pakistan Forward. "This is a precarious situation."

"The enmity between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been benefiting the militants," he said. "We should bury our all differences to pave the way for development of the militancy stricken countries."

"We want to see complete peace for the [sake of] regional trade," he added.

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