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Your Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani,
Distinguished Foreign Ministers
Distinguished dignitaries from participating and supporting countries and regional and international organizations of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I warmly welcome you to this Conference and wish you a pleasant stay in Islamabad.

It is indeed an occasion of great pride for Pakistan to co-host with Afghanistan, the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

It is an honour for me personally to welcome brother Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, who graciously agreed to jointly inaugurate this Conference with me.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

More than a century ago, the great philosopher Poet, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, described Afghanistan as the Heart of Asia and a pivot for peace, stability and prosperity for the entire region. He said:

“Asia is like a human body.
Afghanistan is its heart.
If there is instability in Afghanistan, Asia will remain unstable.
And if there is peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, the whole of Asia will prosper.”

In keeping with this vision, Pakistan attaches great importance to the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process as a forum for sustainable peace, progress and development in Afghanistan, our region and beyond.


Since its inception in 2011, the process has emerged as an important and credible initiative, offering immense opportunities for participating and supporting countries in pursuit of our shared objectives.

In the wake of the political and security transitions of 2014, we have to intensify efforts to move forward from a conceptual domain to tangible landmarks, for the implementation of concrete ideas and projects envisioned in the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process Declarations.

The theme of today’s Conference “Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region” aptly reflects our desire for promoting regional development, increasing economic and trade linkages, improving quality of life for our peoples and meeting security challenges. I am confident that your deliberations and the proposed Islamabad Declaration, will appropriately encompass all these areas.

In my view, the Heart of Asia initiative should not be seen in isolation. This initiative can be linked to several other regional infrastructure and connectivity projects flowing along and across Afghanistan.

Processes like Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, based on the concept of building east-west and north-south linkages, add to the dimensions of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Working for the achievement of a peaceful neighbourhood is a cardinal principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy. We firmly believe that peace is vital for development and development is vital for durable peace. Adhering to these principles, Pakistan remains committed to strengthening its relations with all its neighbours and regional countries, as well as promoting regional cooperation and connectivity.

For us, Afghanistan is more than a neighbour. Our cordial ties are rooted in shared history, common religion, cultural and linguistic affinities and people-to-people relations since times immemorial. Due to these close bonds between our peoples, Pakistan has always stood by Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a sovereign State and the international community fully respects its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The democratically elected Government in Afghanistan is the only legitimate authority in the country, in accordance with its unanimously adopted Constitution.

I would like to reiterate my remarks in Kabul on 12 May, in which I had declared that the enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan will continue to support Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process that remains the most viable option to end violence and promote stability in Afghanistan.

I call upon the international community to extend its full support and assistance to the Afghan Government’s peace efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government and people of Pakistan have demonstrated an unflinching resolve to uproot the menace of terrorism and violent extremism from our soil. The consensus-based military operation “Zarb-e-Azb” and the National Action Plan, have been remarkably successful in our campaign against terrorism and extremism. These are delivering desired results.

We are convinced that terrorism and extremism is the common enemy of all. We need a collective approach to combat this menace. In our view, finalization of border management SOPs at the earliest, will be helpful in containing movement of terrorists across the border.

We believe our efforts for long term stability in Afghanistan should envisage the return and resettlement of Afghan refugees to their homeland, in a dignified manner. Massive cross-border movement of refugees constitutes a security risk and is exploited by the miscreants for their nefarious designs.

The emergence of newer and more threatening terrorist groups like Daesh should also strengthen our resolve against terrorism. We should envisage collective and coordinated measures on the regional security front, to ensure that the gains in the struggle against terrorism are durable and irreversible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am confident that the Foreign Ministers and the Heads of delegations of the participating and supporting countries will have constructive deliberation to confront the challenges and harness the potential of a well-integrated region.

I am confident that the Islamabad Declaration to be adopted by this Conference will identify a way forward to the participants of the Heart of Asia Process, for strengthening regional connectivity, in pursuit of a better future for our peoples.

I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.

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