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Honourable Chairman,
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

My commendation to Tajik leadership for hosting this meeting of SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan at the Foreign Ministers level. It testifies to the importance attached by SCO member states to the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

I hope our deliberations will help reinforce our collective endeavours for peace and stability in the country, yet again at a historic crossroads.

Excellencies,

Few months back, several of us met here in Dushanbe within the framework of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. We adopted a comprehensive “Dushanbe Declaration: Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development.”

Since then, the situation inside Afghanistan has undergone further transformation:

• The U.S. is about to complete withdrawal of troops.
• Some NATO member states have already completed withdrawal.
• Peace Process is moving at an imperceptible pace.
• The level of violence has escalated, resulting in increased loss of lives and infrastructure destruction.
• Reports indicate that many Afghans are migrating in search for safety and security.
• The hope to achieve sustainable peace is flickering.

If military confrontation between the Afghan sides persists, we foresee deeper instability, economic meltdown, a fresh wave of refugee influx in neighboring countries, and rise in terrorism.

So, what are the options for us? Can we afford to look the other way, while our neighbor Afghanistan faces stiffer challenges? I don’t think this is an option.

Peace, prosperity and economic development of our region is inter-linked. Our destinies remain intertwined.

The hopes of a better future are contingent upon moving forward together, on the road to peace, stability and progress.

Excellencies,

There are obvious limitations on how much Afghanistan’s friends and partners can do. Ultimately, it is the Afghans themselves who have to act with wisdom and foresight and in the supreme interest of the Afghan nation.

For our part, we can help through the following ways:

• Strongly emphasize the imperative of a negotiated political solution.
• Stress the importance of reduction in violence and of ceasefire.
• Continue our strong support for the Afghan peace process.
• Pursue Afghan parties to proceed on the negotiating table in a meaningful, time-bound and result-oriented way.
• Urge the parties to deliberate on future vision/roadmap for Afghanistan.
• Prevent ‘spoilers’ from derailing the process.
• Vow not to let Afghanistan become a proxy ground for regional ambitions.
• Agree to respect the decisions taken by Afghans about their future.
• Reaffirm support for long-term reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of international forces presents an opportunity as well, for the Afghan stakeholders, to take decisive steps.

The Afghan leaders must seize the moment, engage constructively, and work together to secure a negotiated settlement. An inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political solution is indispensible.

Excellencies,

Pakistan’s perspective has been clear. There is no other country more desirous of peace in Afghanistan, than Pakistan as no country is more deeply affected by instability in Afghanistan, than Pakistan.

We have no favorites in Afghanistan. We have pursued a policy of reaching out to all Afghan stakeholders and promoting a peaceful resolution.

We assisted the U.S.-Taliban direct negotiations that culminated in the and Peace Agreement signed in Doha on 29 February 2020. We also facilitated subsequent Intra-Afghan Negotiations. All in good faith and as part of a shared responsibility.

Bilaterally, we have engaged with the Afghan government to support deepening of trade and economic relations, opening of new border crossing-points, revising customs and clearance procedures, and forging closer people-to-people contacts through revised visa policy. Having hosted over 3 million Afghan refugees for over 4 decades, we remain engaged for their return to their homeland with dignity and honour. We expect the international community to support these endeavours through a well-resourced and time-bound road-map.

Pakistan is also firmly committed to pursuing a geo-economic strategy for increased integration and connectivity in the region and beyond.

Excellencies,

Our region’s security is linked to the long borders we share with neighbors.

Continued expansion of terrorist networks and extremist elements, nexus of narcotics and terrorism in the region, and unabated smuggling of humans and goods constitute major obstacles in realizing our common goals of peace and security.

Presence of Daesh/ISIS and merger of various terrorist organizations inside Afghanistan such as TTP, ETIM and other terrorist groups have not only resulted in great human tragedy and political instability, but also continue to add to economic uncertainty in our otherwise rich and resourceful region. These terrorist outfits also threaten Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries.

This is a scenario that all SCO members must work to change. We all share the burdens of decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

It is essential to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, and that sustained efforts are made for the eradication of terrorism and extremism in all forms and manifestations from the region.

Excellencies,

Establishment and continuation of peace is strongly underpinned by economic growth and human development; domestically and regionally.

An inclusive political settlement will be a win-win outcome for Afghanistan and all the countries in the region. It will yield an integrated and connected region – a dividend yearned for by the Afghans and others.

At the cusp of this historic juncture in Afghanistan, let us maximize our cooperation and coordination to support the Afghan people.

This is the time that friends and partners of Afghanistan must remain closely engaged to advance shared goals and objectives.

I thank you!

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