Pakistan wants to build 'partnership' with Afghanistan for lasting peace

US envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend an international conference on the future of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, organized by the Pakistan and the UN Refugee Agency in Islamabad on Feb. 17, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Pakistan wants to build 'partnership' with Afghanistan for lasting peace

  • Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says both countries need to carve out their future collectively
  • Analysts say Afghan refugees will serve as Pakistan’s ambassadors after returning to their home country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday offered Afghanistan to build a partnership for the future to ensure peaceful coexistence and lasting stability in the region.
“We are joined by geography. We cannot walk away. We have to live together and we have to carve out our future collectively,” he said while addressing a session of the two-day summit on Afghan refugees here in Islamabad.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees had jointly organized the summit with Pakistan to mark 40 years since the beginning of Afghan displacement. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also attended the conference to express solidarity with Afghan refugees and recognize Pakistan’s efforts to host them.
“We need to build a partnership for the future … we can easily look at faults, point fingers, but there is a history of coexistence, caring and sharing,” the foreign minister said while conveying this message to Afghan leadership.
Pakistan is the world’s second-largest host of refugees with over 2 million Afghans living in different parts of the country since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Qureshi also lauded the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces where majority of the Afghan refugees have been living for their support to the displaced people.
“The government alone couldn’t have done it,” he said. “The government’s resources and ability was limited.”
The minister said that the local values and customs also helped ensure that the refugees were not discriminated at any stage in the country. “The refugees were allowed to move out, ply their transport and do trade without any discrimination,” he added.
The refugee summit comes at a time when the United States and Taliban are said to be close to a peace deal. The US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has also attended the conference and met the civil and military leadership of Pakistan to discuss the future of Afghan refugees after reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban by the end of this month.
However, analysts say it is highly unlikely that the refugees will start moving to their homeland immediately after the US-Taliban peace deal since it will take time to restore peace and build necessary infrastructure to accommodate over three million refugees back home.
“The refugee families have established their businesses and relationships with the locals, so it won’t be easy for them to pack up,” Zaigham Khan, a senior analyst from tribal districts, told Arab News.
However, he added that Afghan refugees would serve as ambassadors of Pakistan when they returned to their home country. “Our people have looked after them as their brothers and sisters during difficult times,” he added.


530 stranded Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia to return home today

Updated 02 June 2020

530 stranded Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia to return home today

  • According to the foreign ministry, Pakistan is operating three special flights to bring back these citizens from Riyadh
  • The country’s diplomatic mission has so far facilitated the repatriation of over 4,000 Pakistanis from the Kingdom

ISLAMABAD: Three PIA flights carrying 530 stranded Pakistanis and the mortal remains of 16 Pakistani nationals from Riyadh will reach the country today, announced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad through an official handout on Tuesday.
“In their efforts, the Embassy of Pakistan in Riyadh and Consulate General of Pakistan in Jeddah have so far facilitated the repatriation of more than 4,000 Pakistanis, including 480 Umrah Zaireen [pilgrims] and 195 detainees,” the statement read.
“The Missions are also extending assistance including provision of ration bags to the needy Pakistanis in the Kingdom and coordinating special flights with PIA to facilitate repatriation of stranded Pakistanis,” it continued.
Pakistan’s diplomats are in contact with the country's diaspora in Saudi Arabia, said the official handout, and are doing their best to assist its members within the lockdown constraints.
The ministry also informed that the number of special flights to Saudi Arabia had been increased to expedite the repatriation process.
“As regards expired Pakistanis,” the official handout added, “the Missions have extended assistance in local burial in 40 cases. While the mortal remains of 90 have been repatriated to Pakistan thus far, arrangements are in hand to facilitate the return of those remaining.”
“In line with the directives of the Prime Minister for early repatriation of stranded Pakistanis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue its efforts till the repatriation of all such Pakistanis. In this regard, the Missions are under special instructions to complete the repatriation process at the earliest possible in close liaison with the local Saudi authorities, PIA and relevant authorities in Pakistan,” the statement concluded.