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.


Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

Updated 31 March 2020

Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

  • Jamaat-e-Islami volunteers provide food and other necessities to Muslims and non-Muslims in need alike, party chief says
  • Religious minority leaders say the step will help promote interfaith harmony in the country

LAHORE: Promoting interfaith harmony during coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s religio-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has set out on a disinfection campaign for mosques, churches, and temples alike in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The initiative taken by the party’s social welfare wing, Al Khidmat Foundation, has been greatly lauded the country’s minority communities.
“Al Khidmat Foundation has been instructed by the party leadership to provide food to the needy in these testing times and participate in the movement of disinfecting worship places belonging to all religions along with other public areas,” JI’s information secretary, Qaisar Sharif, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“In Karachi and Peshawar, Al Khidmat volunteers have helped seven churches, five temples and two [Sikh] gurdwaras,” he added.
Sharif said the party’s top leadership opined that no one was safe since COVID-19 had engulfed the entire world.
“The JI has directed its volunteers to provide cooked food, rations and other items of necessity to those in need. The service is for the people of all faiths, not just Muslims. We believe in one God who is the Master of the universe. Our Prophet was a mercy to the humankind, not just to Muslims alone. As his followers, it is our responsibility to serve all humans without making any discrimination,” Sirajul Haq, the JI chief, told Arab News.
“Serving the mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras is a practical step toward religious harmony,” he continued. “We are trying to show the world that Islam is not a religion of extremism but teaches its followers that all humans are equal.”
The religious leaders of different faiths welcomed the step, saying it would lead to a more pluralistic society.
“It is a positive development that will pave the way for religious harmony in Pakistan,” Pastor Shahid Meraj, Dean of Lahore Cathedral, told Arab News. “There is always an initiative to begin, and this act will help start dialogue among religions.”
“We are thankful to the JI leadership for this gesture,” he added. “They helped us today and we have assured to help them whenever needed.”
Leaders of the Hindu community also appreciated the gesture, saying it would bring people of different religions closer together.
“At a time when the whole world is suffering due to an unseen virus, this act of disinfecting our temples is a good omen,” Pandat Bhagat Lal Khokhar, custodian of Lahore’s Valmik Mandar, told Arab News. “It will have a far reaching and positive impact on our society since it will bring Hindus and Muslims closer together.”
President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh echoed the same sentiment as well.
“This positive gesture will further strengthen the Sikh-Muslim brotherhood,” he noted. “It is important to have interfaith harmony in the country and such steps are extremely fruitful for that purpose.”
Rights activists also appreciated the JI initiative.
“Huge respect for Al-Khidmat, welfare wing of @JIPOfficial, for doing disinfectant spray in Mandir and Church. Lead by example of peaceful coexistence, interfaith harmony and pluralism,” Kapil Dev, a Hindu activist from Sindh, said in a Twitter post.