Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri confirmed on Thursday that Pakistan will host the Afghan Peace Conference from July 17 to 19.
“Any speculations about the postponement of the conference are entirely baseless,” said Chaudhri, during his weekly media briefing in Islamabad.
He said the conference will “provide momentum to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan”.
A number of Afghan politicians have already confirmed their participation, according to Chaudhri. In response to a query, he said that the Taliban are not among the invitees.
“They have visited Pakistan many times and we’ve had detailed discussions with them on the Afghan peace process. The aim of the forthcoming peace conference is to engage with and consult all sides on the Afghan peace process,” said the spokesperson.
He said Pakistan hopes that this conference “will provide impetus to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan”.
Pakistan has consistently advocated for an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive political solution in Afghanistan, according to Chaudhri.
“We have no favorites in Afghanistan and we stand with the people of Afghanistan,” he said emphatically.
As part of Pakistan’s attempts to assist the Afghan peace process, he went on to say that the nation is “engaged with all sides in Afghanistan.”
According to Geo News, Prime Minister Imran Khan will convene the meeting, which will be attended by all non-Taliban factions.
Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai are expected to attend, according to reports.
They also confirmed that Salahuddin Rabbani, Omar Zakhilwal, Haji Muhammad Mohaqiq, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Ahmed Wali Masoud will be present.
According to reports, the attendees will discuss their perspectives on Afghanistan’s future.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in Uzbekistan for a two-day visit, is expected to make an official statement about the conference tomorrow after meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tashkent, according to reports.
Afghanistan’s security situation
In his briefing, Chaudhri also mentioned Pakistan’s concerns over the developing security situation in Afghanistan.
“As the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is nearing completion, we remain concerned at the evolving security situation in Afghanistan,” he said.
“We once again reiterate the imperative of a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson added.
While Pakistan has played an essential role in the peace process and is dedicated to facilitating it in the future, Chaudhri believes that the Afghan people must eventually determine their own fate.
“At this critical juncture, all Afghan stakeholders must work out an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.
Pakistan also wants the international community to play a more active role in supporting the rebuilding and economic growth in post-conflict Afghanistan, which is critical for the country’s long-term peace and stability, he added.
“We also believe that a peaceful settlement of the Afghan dispute should also lead to a dignified and time-bound return of Afghan refugees,” he said.
Pakistan, which already hosts over 3 million Afghan refugees, does not have the ability to accommodate any more, according to Qureshi.
“This is the time that friends and partners of Afghanistan must remain closely engaged to advance shared goals and objectives,” he added.
Responding to a question regarding Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants in Afghanistan and whether they will be sent back to Pakistan, and the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan, he said that Pakistan “has always maintained that peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest”.
According to him, Pakistan places a premium on peace in Afghanistan because:
- The security situation in Afghanistan has a direct bearing on the security situation in Pakistan. Any security vacuum in Afghanistan can be exploited by spoilers. We have shared evidence of Indian use of Afghan soil for state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan.
- Pakistan continues to host over three million Afghan refugees for over 4 decades. We are not in a position to cater to the further influx of Afghan refugees, and for that peace and stability in Afghanistan are important.
- Economic integration and regional connectivity cannot be achieved without peace and stability in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan is essential for the successful implementation of regional connectivity initiatives.