Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, New York, at the Security Council Debate on United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on (15 March 2016)

Mr. President,

We thank the Secretary General for his report and Special Representative Nicholas Haysom for his briefing.

We welcome the adoption of the Council Resolution this morning, extending UNAMA's mandate for another year.

We appreciate the welcome accorded in the Report to progress on the initiation of an Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Process, which has “reinvigorated prospects” for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

This is the course Pakistan has consistently called for to end the decades of war and suffering endured by the Afghan people.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately, the long war in Afghanistan continues. Over the last year, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated further. Insurgent groups have exerted intense pressure on Government forces. Civilian casualties continue to rise, with violent attacks in Kabul and across the country, including on the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad in January.

Pakistan condemns all terrorism. There is no justification for the indiscriminate attacks against innocent children, women and men.

The prolonged conflict in Afghanistan has not only imposed epic suffering on its people, it has also prevented Afghanistan and the entire region from realizing its immense economic potential. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is essential for regional stability and economic progress. As Pakistan has affirmed repeatedly, peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan's vital interest.

Mr. President,

Pakistan is gratified that the international community has reached a firm consensus that a negotiated peace, promoted through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, is the best, and indeed only hope for securing durable peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. This has been Pakistan's consistent position and recommendation.

A promising beginning has been made in fostering such a negotiating process in the last couple of months.

Following the positive momentum generated by the successful Ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process hosted by Islamabad last December, which was jointly inaugurated by President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States reached a decision to create a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), to provide decisive impetus to Afghanistan's peace efforts. The success of this new mechanism is predicated on the shared commitment and shared responsibility of each of its four members. Each must undertake to play its part in moving the process forward towards our common objective.

The QCG has met four times, and has evolved a detailed roadmap for a workable peace and reconciliation process. Implementation of this roadmap was initiated by undertaking a realistic assessment of opportunities as well as likely obstacles for reconciliation, and will culminate in implementing the framework and modalities for an eventual peace agreement.

Despite delays, Pakistan remains hopeful that direct talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban Groups can be resumed in the near future, in accordance with the QCG roadmap.

Mr. President,

The task ahead is complex and arduous. Our expectations should be realistic. We must exercise strategic patience. Unrealistic targets and deadlines must be avoided, especially now that we have a clear roadmap.

What is vital now is to create an enabling environment to operationalize and sustain a peace process.

To this end, the following factors will be critical:

First, consistent and unified positions and declarations from the Afghan Government affirming its commitment to work for a negotiated peace. We welcome in this regard recent statements by the Afghan leadership and the revamping of the High Peace Council as steps in the right direction.

Second, a demonstrated capacity of the Afghan Security forces to hold their ground. Obviously, ability to do this would help in creating the necessary conditions for the Taliban to return to the negotiating table.

Third, all four members of the QCG, having committed themselves to share responsibilities, must use their respective influence and political capital to contribute to the success of the process. In this regard, the ability of the Afghan Government to craft a set of incentives to engage the Taliban in sustained talks will be essential. It would be wise to avoid posing pre-conditions since this could abort the negotiations even before they are underway.

This process is our best hope for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Pakistan will play its due part. As a first step, we have offered to host direct talks between the Afghan Government and the Afghan Taliban.

Mr. President,

Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan will be a vital component of the endeavor to realize peace and security within Afghanistan and the entire region. It is thus heartening that the positive engagement between Islamabad and Kabul at the leadership and working levels has continued.

What we vitally need now is greater cooperation on border management to stop the movement of terrorists. We have a long border which is not easy to control. There are incursions by TTP terrorists across the international border from Afghanistan.

Pakistan has called repeatedly for cooperation to monitor and control the border. Kabul has not been forthcoming so far. Indeed there has been opposition to Pakistan’s creation of border barriers. We urge Kabul to respond positively to our efforts to manage the border.

The combined potential of Pakistan and Afghanistan is considerable. Expanded trade, energy cooperation and implementation of the various trans-regional economic projects already identified, can greatly enhance peace and prosperity in the entire region. We must actively promote the realization of the immense opportunities that can flow from our bilateral cooperation.

Pakistan looks forward to a relationship with Afghanistan based on shared values and interests and respect for each other’s sensitivities. We stand committed to working with Afghanistan for the improvement of this relationship for the mutual benefit of our peoples.

I thank you, Mr. President.