Islamabad: While addressing the meeting of Afghan and Pakistani Parliamentary Delegations held under the auspicious of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency at the Prime Minister’s House today, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said that Pakistan wanted to take up three issues with the United States, which encompassed the rules of future engagements between both countries.
The Prime Minister said that the US must guarantee the sovereignty of Pakistan, no Abbottabad-like unilateral action in future and if any credible and actionable information was available, it should be shared with Pakistan for action. He further added that the drone attacks, which caused collateral damage, must be stopped as these were grossly detrimental to the government’s efforts to isolate the terrorists from local population.
The Prime Minister said that Pakistan cut off NATO supplies, got Shamsi airbase vacated, and boycotted the Bonn Conference in the aftermath of the NATO attack on Pakistani army check post on November 26.
The Prime Minister said that Pakistan wanted sovereign, independent, prosperous and stable Afghanistan, which was in the Pakistan’s interests. Pakistan is a part of the solution and not part of the problem, the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said that assassination of Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani, Head of the Afghan High Peace Council, was a severe setback to the peace and reconciliation efforts as Prof Rabbani was a great supporter of friendship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Prime Minister accepted the suggestion of one of the co-chairmen of the delegation to inaugurate the Engineering University being built in Balkh with the assistance of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister asked the Afghan Parliamentarians to express his best wishes to his brother President Hamid Karzai.
Earlier, Co-chairman of the Afghan Parliamentary delegation and member of Wolesi Jirga Mr. Abdul Latif Pedram thanked the Prime Minister for inviting the delegation at the Prime Minister’s House, which provided them with an opportunity to meeting the Prime Minister. He said that Pakistan was very important for Afghanistan. He also thanked the government of Pakistan for financial and technical assistance in the fields of infrastructure, education and health.
Senator Besmellah Afghanmal, member of Meshrano Jirga and co-chairman of delegation, extended the best wishes to the Prime Minister on behalf of President Karzai. He recalled the statement of President Karzai that if Pakistan was attacked either by the US or India, his country would stand by Pakistan. Senator Besmellah underlined the need of facilitating the transit trade between Karachi and Kabul. He expressed the hope that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan would be strengthened with the passage of time.
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s statement he delivered on the occasion.
Prime Minister’s Statement
Honourable Members of the Afghan Parliament
Executive Director PILDAT,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you all here. It’s a pleasure to see members of the Afghan Parliament in Islamabad. The exchange visits of Parliamentarians are essential to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.
I appreciate the efforts of PILDAT to organize a dialogue between the Parliamentarians of Pakistan and Afghanistan to facilitate a structured discussion on issues of mutual interest. Such interactions greatly help in deepening ties between the two nations.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have very close historical, geographical, cultural, religious relations. The situation in Afghanistan affects Pakistan more than any other country. We feel that it is in our own interest to promote long term peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
The democratic Government of Pakistan has made consistent and sincere efforts to improve our relations with Afghanistan. We want to have friendly relations with all ethnic and political groups of Afghanistan. Non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs is fundamental to our policy.
There is broad consensus among all political parties of Pakistan to give peace a chance. Pakistan has all along supported President Karzai’s peace efforts. We continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation. Pakistan does not aspire to determine the political dispensation in Kabul.
At Afghanistan’s request we established a two-tier Joint Commission to support the reconciliation process. The Commission is co-chaired by me and President Karzai.
Professor Rabbani’s tragic assassination is a great loss for Pakistan and also a set back to the Reconciliation process. I personally went to Kabul on 22nd September to condole the death of Prof Rabbani with President Karzai and members of the bereaved family. We have offered our full support to the Afghan government in the investigation of this heinous crime. An Afghan team visited Pakistan for this purpose last month.
It is time to understand and cooperate, rather than engage in blame game which would only benefit those who are against peace and reconciliation.
We believe that political process also needs to be underpinned by economic development. Pakistan is, therefore, carrying out reconstruction work in Afghanistan out of the US$330 million pledged money. Apart from various projects in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan is also assisting in reconstruction in north Afghanistan.
Pakistan has built the Engineering University building in Balkh with a cost of US$ 10 million. We also plan to build a new block at Mazar Sharif Hospital and a 50 bed eye hospital at Gardez. I would inaugurate the block of the University in Balkh. Pakistan has additionally pledged construction of 50 primary schools and 50 basic health units across Afghanistan. Initially these primary schools will be built in Heart, Baghlan and other provinces.
Pakistan is offering 2,000 fully funded scholarships to Afghan students. About six thousand Afghan students are enrolled in Pakistani universities and colleges while about 500,000 Afghan refugee children attend government or other schools in Pakistan.
The new Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement is in force as of 12 June 2011. Most of the implementation related issues were sorted out during Afghan Minister for Commerce’s visit to Islamabad in September 2011. Bilaterally we have US$2 billion trade annually. Our target is to enhance it to US$45 billion by 2015.
Regional economic integration will help both Afghanistan and Pakistan alike. Projects like TAPI, CASA-1000 as well as rail and road connections can change the region.
Pakistan is still hosting about 3 million Afghan refugees. We want the return of Afghan refugees to their country with honour, dignity and self-respect.
Before concluding my remarks, I once again thank my Afghan brothers and sisters for their visit to Pakistan. I am also grateful to PILDAT for providing this opportunity.
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