Press Release No 74/2008

Pakistan committed to help Afghanistan achieve sustainable peace and development Ambassador Munir Akram

New York, United Nations, March 12, 2008: Pakistan's ability to contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region will be enhanced following the recent elections and the assumption of office by a popularly elected government.

This was stated by Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to UN, in his statement delivered in the Security Council ,which met today to discuss the situation on Afghanistan.

Pakistan has a direct and vital the stake in the success of the international community's efforts in Afghanistan and hopes for a closer coordination and consensus on a strategy for success in Afghanistan and the region noted Ambassador Munir Akram.

Appreciating the Secretary General's latest report on Afghanistan, he observed that "what is most needed is better implementation, enhanced coordination and fulfillment of reciprocal commitments by Afghanistan and its international partners".

Ambassador Munir Akram underlined that Pakistan believes that the key to success lies in pursuing a comprehensive approach with emphasis on building the Afghan capacity to assume greater control and ownership on security, governance and development issues.

The deterioration of the security situation in parts of Afghanistan is a common concern, the factors contributing to insecurity and instability are diverse, complex and often inter-related. A counter-narcotics policy, extension of state authority and improvement in governance are fundamental for restoring the confidence of the people of Afghanistan, the Ambassador emphasized.

"Putting security as a pre-requisite for development and assistance can prove to be counter-productive". Pakistan, he said, believes that it is important to pursue the development track while the security issue is being addressed. The launch of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) will be an important milestone and a major hope for the Afghan people. The international community must ensure adequate resources for its implementation,he stressed

Ambassador Munir Akram disclosed that Pakistan will host the next Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan.

Ambassador Munir Akram reiterated that all Afghan refugees living in Pakistan should return to their homeland disagreeing with the contention that their stay in Pakistan for over 20 years could be a factor inhibiting their return.

Welcoming the appointment of Mr Kai Eida as the Secretary

General's Special Representative on Afghanistan , he cautioned "given the realities on ground, it is essential to avoid placing responsibilities on the United Nations which it may not be in a position to discharge and which could affect its neutrality and credibility".

Ambassador Munir Akram recounting the measures taken by Pakistan to help Afghanistan achieve sustainable peace and development highlighted its efforts for reconciliation through the Peace Jirga, whose next meeting will be held in Pakistan. Our bilateral trade with Afghanistan, he said is 1.5 billion dollars .Pakistan is a substantial economic contributor in Afghanistan's reconstruction and economic development, he added.

Following is the original text of the statement of Ambassador Munir Akram:-

"Mr. President,

We appreciate the holding of this open debate on the situation in Afghanistan.

Two years after the London Conference, it is opportune to have a strategic review of the progress in implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, in its underlying objective of assisting the government and the people of Afghanistan achieve durable peace and development.

A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is crucial for regional and international peace and security. As a country most affected by the decades of instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan has a direct and vital stake in the success of the international community's efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan is an important partner in this endeavour.

We appreciate the overall quality of analysis, objectivity and recommendations of the Secretary General's latest report on Afghanistan (S/2008/159). While avoiding dramatic description, the report is reflective of the challenges and ground realities. It provides a useful overview of the situation, which is relevant to the Council's discussion, particularly with regard to the renewal of UNAMA's mandate. As the report indicates, there are improvements, gains and new initiatives in several areas. These need to be acknowledged, appreciated and consolidated. There are deficiencies and gaps in several other areas. These need to be identified and addressed. However, what is most needed is better implementation, enhanced coordination and fulfillment of reciprocal commitments by Afghanistan and its international partners.

We believe the key to success lies in pursuing a comprehensive approach with emphasis on building the Afghan capacity to assume greater control and ownership on security, governance and development issues. We are pleased to note that this is also the central theme of the report of the Secretary General.

The deterioration of the security situation in parts of Afghanistan is a common concern. As is clear from this and previous UN reports, the factors contributing to insecurity and instability are diverse, complex and often inter-related. These vary from region to region. There is therefore need to follow approaches that are responsive to the challenges in each region. Increasing the strength of ISAF troops would help in the short term. However, for sustainable solutions it is essential to focus more on building the national capacity in the security sector together with parallel endeavours for political reconciliation, reconstruction and development.

A more coherent and feasible counter-narcotics policy is required, which is more responsive to the underlying economic, social and political aspects linked with the increased poppy cultivation in some areas. This is essential if we wish to deny this important source of funding to insurgents and other anti-government elements.

Extension of state authority and improvement in governance, especially at the sub-national and local levels, are also fundamental in restoring the confidence of the population in the ability of the government to respond to their basic needs. The efforts by the Afghan government in this regard merit our full support.

Security and governance issues cannot be divorced from development. As the report notes, despite progress in various social and economic indicators, the level of development is low, particularly at provincial and district levels. Putting security as a pre-requisite for development and assistance can prove to be counter-productive. We believe it is important to pursue the development track while the security is being addressed. The launch of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) will be an important milestone, and a major hope for the Afghan people. The international community must ensure adequate resources for its implementation. We hope it will also inculcate a new culture of assistance that is demand driven and channeled mostly through the Afghan government.

All these efforts to improve security, governance and development, will have a greater impact if carried out in a politically propitious environment. The Afghan led efforts for national reconciliation can play an important role in that regard, and should be encouraged.

The agreements already reached, and other policies and measures being considered to promote regional economic cooperation, will benefit Afghanistan and all the countries of the region. Pakistan is an important partner in that endeavour. We will also host the next Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan.

Safe and voluntary return of all remaining Afghan refugees, of which more than 2 million are still hosted by Pakistan, should also be accorded high priority. We welcome the emphasis laid in the report increased assistance for creating conditions conducive to the return of the refugees. However, we do not agree with the Secretary General's observation that the fact that over 80% of the refugees have been in exile for more than 20 years could be a factor inhibiting their return. All refugees should return to their homeland.

We appreciate the central and impartial role of the United Nations in coordinating the international efforts in Afghanistan. We welcome the appointment of Mr. Kai Eida as the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Afghanistan. UNAMA's efforts should be focused on its core mandate in Afghanistan. We agree with the Secretary General that UNAMA's existing mandate should be retained. We have also noted the areas identified by the Secretary General, which should be the priority for UNAMA. These should be carefully considered to ensure that these are totally consistent with UNAMA's current mandate and take account the views of the host government and others concerned. Given the realities on ground, it is essential to avoid placing responsibilities on the United Nations which it may not be in a position to discharge and which could affect its neutrality and credibility.

Mr. President,

Pakistan remains strongly committed to help Afghanistan achieve sustainable peace and development. Our destinies are inter-linked. We seek to strengthen the close friendly relations with Afghanistan based on reciprocity and mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We want peace and greater prosperity for both our peoples. Our cooperation with Afghanistan is multifaceted. It is characterized by dialogue and regular exchange of visits at the highest levels. We are also trying to help reconciliation through the Peace Jirga, whose next meeting will be held in Pakistan. Pakistan is a major contributor in Afghanistan's reconstruction and economic development. A number of projects identified in consultation with the Afghan government have been implemented in various fields including infrastructure development, education and health, besides other capacity building initiatives and training and scholarship programs. We shall consider ways and means of designing our future assistance in accordance with the priorities of the ANDS. Our bilateral trade with Afghanistan is 1.5 billion dollars. We shall continue to support Afghanistan's integration with regional economic cooperation efforts; indeed the success of these endeavours requires peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Pakistan's ability to contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region will be enhanced following the recent fair and open elections in Pakistan and the assumption of office by a popularly elected government. We hope this will lead to closer coordination and consensus on a strategy for success in Afghanistan and the region.

"Thank you".