(The Hague, 31 March 2009)
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General United Nations
Mr. Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Mr. Maxime Verhagen
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan
Mr. Kai Eide, Special Representative on Afghanistan
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am privileged to be among distinguished colleagues and friends to deliberate an issue of great significance to Pakistan. May I express at the outset my profound appreciation to the Dutch Government and the UN for this timely initiative, and for their cordial hospitality.
Seven years ago, a great atrocity shook the world and stirred its conscience. The international community decided to correct an historic wrong. A country, hijacked by extremism and terrorism, and all but abandoned as the last vestige of the cold war, captured the international spotlight.
Together with the people of Afghanistan, the global fraternity committed to reverse the tragic legacy of three decades. It pledged to help build a new country. And to root out the many ills that plague this nation and our region.
The Afghanistan of today is a far cry from what it was a decade ago. Political, economic and security assistance of the international community reflected in the Bonn Accord, the London Compact and under the auspices of the United Nations has been instrumental in manifesting the world’s support to the Afghan people. And this assembly today will reaffirm our collective commitment to continue this support.
Yet we all know all is not well. As Afghanistan braces for the Presidential Election, security challenges loom large. The fire of terrorism and extremism has not been extinguished. Perhaps it rages today with greater ferocity than before. Gulfs of misperception have not been bridged. Reconstruction, development and social welfare have yet to dent pervasive poverty and ignorance in a meaningful way. And trans-regional flows of narcotics, money and munitions continue fanning militancy and organized crime.
However, to this dark cloud, there is a silver lining. There is now a growing consensus among policy planners of the futility of an overly militaristic approach. The international community has taken a pause for introspection and a candid re-assessment of the situation. Key world capitals are reviewing the security and assistance paradigms.
The new administration in the United States has taken the lead in this course correction. President Obama has captured the imagination of peoples around the globe as a symbol of hope and change. His proposed way forward with the Muslim World on the basis of mutual respect and interest has been greatly appreciated in Pakistan. This is an auspicious beginning for us all.
A comprehensive strategy in a regional context must take into account the successes and failures of the past seven years. It must co-opt the support of local populations. It must factor in the concerns, the capacity and the aspirations of regional States and their peoples. And build solid stakes in lasting peace. It is our expectation that the global re-think on Afghanistan will translate into concrete and coherent measures that would be consistent with the will and aspirations of the people of Afghanistan.
Perhaps no country is affected more, or has greater stakes in Afghanistan than Pakistan. For three decades, Pakistan has hosted the largest refugee population of contemporary times on its soil. Whatever happens in one country invariably impacts the other. Our security and our stability, our problems and our prospects are inextricably linked. Our destinies are intertwined.
Pakistan has been happy to partner with the international community in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, and will continue to play an active role.
Pakistanhas been at the forefront of the global campaign against terrorism. On this frontline, we have sustained heavy casualties and incurred monumental losses. More Pakistani soldiers have fallen in combat than the combined casualties of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Our economic losses have been several folds greater than what we have received in compensation.
Yet today more than ever before, the Pakistani nation stands firm in its resolve to combat this menace. Our people are motivated, our armed forces galvanized and our resources mobilized. We will continue to pursue a multi-pronged strategy with the support and assistance of local populations.
With Afghanistan, our democratic Government has brought about a fundamental and qualitative transformation in relations. The leaderships of the two countries enjoy an equation which is both close and personal. Our multi-track engagement transcends political, economic, security and social spheres. Together, our two countries are developing a relationship of deeper trust and greater understanding.
We have revived the Jirga process and resolved to continue pursuing it as a useful means for promoting dialogue and development.
And earlier this year, I had the pleasure of signing with Foreign Minister Spanta, a historic Declaration on Future Directions of Bilateral Cooperation. The Declaration gives a clear vision to our partnership bilaterally and in a regional context.
To push forward trans-regional development agenda, Pakistan will shortly be hosting the Third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. We shall continue to play our role in Afghanistan’s development and lend every possible humanitarian assistance. To this end, we are putting together a package of food support. And shortly, we will increase the quantum of our participation in Afghan reconstruction.
I am confident that the international community will continue to extend Pakistan and Afghanistan its full support to their joint quest for a better and more peaceful future for their peoples.
May I avail this opportunity to suggest a few key elements of sustainable solution.
One The situation demands a multi-faceted, comprehensive and balanced approach which is effective and seen by the people as just and therefore wins their hearts and minds.
Two A regional approach has to be based on strict adherence to principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference. To be effective, it must have the whole-hearted support of all stake-holders.
ThreeTime has come to initiate the healing process, through an Afghan led process of reconciliation based on genuine dialogue and an inclusive political process.The process must be culturally nuanced and tailored to local customs, traditions, values and religious beliefs.
Four To rectify misperceptions international forces have to clearly and unambiguously signal that they have no hidden agenda. They must win confidence of the common folk through an extensive sensitization campaign aimed at winning hearts and minds.
Five A major development surge should be planned, placing generous focus on reconstruction and social welfare. To this end, all disconnects and fragmentations, including within the international coalition must be ironed out, and the Afghan authorities given a lead and defining role.
Six Capacity building of Afghan national security forces and institution building must be given the priority it merits.
SevenThe free flow of weapons, drugs and money has to be addressed. Farmers have to be provided alternate livelihoods, and the traffic of drugs and precursors halted. There is a need to tackle this issue in a coordinated manner within Afghanistan and at the regional level.
EightStrong pull factors have to be created to enable the Afghan refugees to return home with dignity and honour.
Afghanistan is the heart of Asia. It is the melting pot of civilizations. If Afghanistan prospers, Asia will prosper. If Afghanistan falters, so will the world. Failure is not an option we are ready to fathom. We have to succeed. And to succeed we have to vest sovereignty where sovereignty must rest. The future of Afghanistan must be determined by the people of Afghanistan alone. They must be equipped with the tools to steer by themselves the ship of their State.
Let us lend them a helping hand
31 March 2009
27 March 2009
Last modified: November 23, 2019
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