Statement by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, in the General Assembly Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan (06 December 2018)

Madam President,

For the past several decades the people of Afghanistan have experienced epic suffering caused by war, internecine conflicts and foreign interventions in their country.

Violence and turmoil in Afghanistan have not only undermined peace and development in the country and the entire region; they also pose a continuing threat to international peace and security.

Through Afghanistan’s travail and tragedy the global community has remained steadfast in its support for its people.

Madam President,

Apart from Afghanistan itself, it is Pakistan that has endured the greatest suffering and damage from the strife, violence and instability in Afghanistan and our neighborhood. Despite the many burdens this has imposed on Pakistan, our support for our Afghan brothers and sisters has remained consistent and resolute.

We opened our hearts and homes to millions of Afghan refugees and have sustained them for almost four decades, with less than adequate support from the international community.

Even today Pakistan continues to host over two million Afghans, the largest protracted presence of refugees anywhere in the world.

Madam President,

Pakistan has a vital interest in a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan.

We are working to strengthen bilateral relations through the recently agreed Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity, which aims at closer engagement on political, economic, military, intelligence, and refugee issues.

We have taken a number of initiatives to support Afghanistan’s economic development.

Pakistan has extended financial assistance over the last decade for various infrastructure and development projects in Afghanistan.

The waiver of regulatory duties last year resulted in a significant increase in Afghanistan’s exports to Pakistan, which is the largest market for Afghanistan.

We have also taken steps to improve the transit of Afghan trade through our ports. We look forward to the day when transit trade from Central Asia could flow through Afghanistan and Pakistan – the shortest route to the Arabian Sea.

Pakistan is also committed to several regional projects including TAPI and CASA-1000, which will contribute to the economic integration of the entire region and promote South-South cooperation.

Over 50,000 Afghan students have studied in various universities and educational institutions in Pakistan. We have offered 4,000 scholarships to Afghan students in our universities. We are confident that these young Afghans, on returning to their country, will contribute to its economic development and progress.

Madam President,

Over the past several months, the level of violence has escalated sharply in Afghanistan. According to independent reports, the areas under Taliban control or influence have enlarged further. Civilian and military casualties have mounted, caused by insurgent attacks and coalition air strikes.

The conflict in Afghanistan is clearly expanding. It is also stalemated. It is evident that neither the Coalition nor the Taliban will be able to impose their will on each other. A negotiated political settlement is the only way to end the violence and bloodshed and realize peace in Afghanistan.

Despite this bleak picture, there are some positive developments.

The most important of these is the now clear international consensus that durable peace can only be achieved through a political settlement. For over two decades, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has repeatedly declared that the war in Afghanistan can be brought to an end only through a negotiated political settlement. We are gratified that this is now the universal position.

The second is the willingness expressed by President Ashraf Ghani and the National Unity Government of their openness to pursue a negotiated settlement in any modality or format available. We welcome the nomination of the Government’s negotiating team.

The third is the US decision to play an active role in promoting a political settlement and engaging in direct talks with the Taliban. A third round of talks about talks is being conducted by the US Special Envoy involving direct dialogue with the Taliban’s representatives in Doha. In response to President Donald Trump’s request, Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised to do all we can to support this process.

The fourth is the efforts being made by Russia, China and other regional states to promote engagement and dialogue with and among the Afghan parties. Sustainable peace will require the endorsement of all the regional states.

The Moscow Format Dialogue last month brought representatives of the Taliban, Afghan Peace Council, the US, and key regional countries around the same table to discuss the path to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Taliban representatives outlined their known position there. We hope that in the subsequent talks in various formats, the positions of the principal parties will move closer to convergence.

It is but obvious that the people of Afghanistan desperately desire peace and an end to this long war. The brief ceasefire observed over the Eid Ul Fitr holidays; the peace marches and the recent Parliamentary elections in Afghanistan are all signals of this popular yearning for peace. Peace will be realized by building on this palpable desire for peace and an end to the nightmare of war.

The challenge that lies ahead is translating this sentiment and recent developments into a serious and sustained peace process.

A diplomatic surge is needed to seize this opportunity.

While the onus for seizing this opportunity rests on the parties directly involved in the Afghan conflict, Pakistan for its part, will do what it can to support all efforts to launch a sustained peace process.

Madam President,

Afghanistan and our region are at a crucial juncture.

The path to peace in Afghanistan is onerous, but seems achievable. It is now for the parties concerned to commit themselves to work seriously towards a negotiated solution to the conflict.

This offers the best chance to end the suffering of the Afghan people and restore peace to Afghanistan and stability to the region.

I thank you.