PESHAWAR: Afghan ambassador Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal has said the atmosphere of mistrust and fears has marred the relations between his country and Pakistan and therefore, concrete measures should be taken to build mutual trust.
“There is no dispute between the two countries except distrust. Both the countries should take serious steps for building trust,” he said during a brief chat with media here on Thursday.
When a journalist asked that Pakistan was asking for action against outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah but the Afghan government was hesitant, the envoy said Kabul would not allow terrorists to operate from the areas under its control, as such activities were not in the interest of Afghanistan.
He, however, didn’t elaborate on how much area was under the Afghan government’s control and if Pakistan’s claims were correct that the outlawed militant commander was hiding in Afghanistan.
Zakhilwal says police harassing refugees; only those involved in crime should be held
Zakhilwal said the direct negotiations between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban were likely to begin very soon.
“This is a matter of days and not weeks,” he said.
He however didn’t give the schedule of the quadrilateral talks.
Pakistan will host the peace talks likely to start this month.
Zakhilwal, who recently assumed the office, was in Peshawar to discuss the issues of registered and unregistered Afghan refugees with the provincial government’s officials, including Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.
Before speaking to the media, he addressed elders of refugees, representatives of Afghan traders, NGOs and students.
He highlighted the problems faced by Afghan refugees at the hands of police and due to the factor of distrust that he believed eclipsed prospects of peace in the region.
In a soft tone, Zakhilwal sent out a stern message to the Pakistani government while he was addressing the Afghans taking refuge in Pakistan.
He said the only chance both the countries had for attaining peace depended on how much they trusted each other.
The envoy conveyed this stern message between the lines to Islamabad on the issue of extension of both the registered and unregistered refugees in Pakistan.
“I don’t see any other option except both countries trust each other and remove fear,” he said, adding that there was a long list of grievances between the two neighbours.
He said negative voices were coming from both sides and it became very difficult to speak about peace in a suffocated environment.
“We should be very realistic that if peace is not attained in Afghanistan, Pakistan can also not rest. A peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan,” he said.
The envoy said if his country took 10 steps for peace, then Pakistan should reciprocate them.
He said a war had been imposed on Afghanistan and that brother had been fighting brother for more than three decades.
Zakhilwal said those, who had waged war in Afghanistan, were their own people and that they knew each other’s family background.
He said his government would give peace a chance.
About extension in stay to registered refugees and documentation of unregistered Afghan nationals in Pakistan, Zakhilwal said he had taken up the matter with Pakistani state and frontier regions minister retired Lt-Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and urged him to give extension to refugees, who had the Proof of Registration cards, and register those living in Pakistan without legal documents.
He said refugees could not go to their country due to the prevailing delicate security situation there.
The envoy said he would take up the issues of refugees with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and other relevant quarters.
The PoR cards had expired in Dec 2015 before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif using discretionary powers gave six months extension to Afghans until next June.
He appreciated the Pakistani government for being hospitable to the millions of refugees but came down heavily on the police for harassing Afghans and warned Afghans could not tolerate insult.
“Afghans can’t tolerate humiliation,” he said, adding that it was not possible to put the people in lockups until their registration.
Zakhilwal said it was in the interest of Pakistan to let Afghans live with honour and dignity until peace returned to Afghanistan.
“The police should arrest a person if he commits crime,” he said.
Later, the envoy addressed a one-day seminar on the current Pakistan-Afghanistan relations in the changing scenario organised by the University of Peshawar International Relations Department.
He told participants that in peaceful environment, both the countries’ export and import volume could increase by 70 to 80 per cent and thus boosting annual per capita income to $400-$500. -Dawn