A recent conference organised by SAFMA assembled over 300 parliamentarians, experts and editors from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The political parties called upon the two countries to forge unity and jointly fight against the threat to their security. The conference warned against possible instability and void that may be created with the drawdown of US-led ISAF troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The future scenarios depend on military, political and economic transition in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts to clean up its areas where extremists operate against both countries.
The delegates from both sides called on both the countries to fight against terrorism and not let their territory be used to destabilise the other state since the security of each country was dependent on the stability of the other. Special focus of deliberations was on Af-Pak region where north-western parts of Pakistan ands south-east of Afghanistan, dominated by Pakhtun tribes, remain unstable and may fall into the hands of extremists who can destabilize or dismember both countries. The conference also called upon the two neighbours not to work against each other’s national security interests and appealed to other countries of the region to work in cohesion with Afghanistan and Pakistan to not let this troubled region get destabilised and avoid grinding their own axe. Special note was taken of a misguided extremist narrative that is confusing the people of the two countries in their war against terrorism.
The two sides agreed on strategic cooperation at all levels to face the threat of terrorism together, including better and effective border management, intelligence sharing, military to military and people to people cooperation. Welcoming the approval of Loya Jirga of mutually agreed “Security and Defence Cooperation Agreement” between the United States and Afghanistan, the speakers called for its ratification at the earliest to set confusion and uncertainty to rest. The participants warned against taking an isolationist and rejectionist course that will play into the hands of extremists who are at war with the whole world and above all our own people. The prominent members of the two parliaments underlined the need not to compromise on the rights of the people and the constitutional framework of two countries while pursuing a negotiated settlement of the conflict on both sides.
Following is the abridged text of Islamabad Declaration-ii:
The participants agreed to:
i. Further deepening the fraternal and mutually beneficial relationship between the peoples and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan while adhering to the principles of good neighbourly relations, respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, promoting an equitable all-sided cooperation in all fields;
ii. Close strategic cooperation at intelligence, military levels and various arms of the state and the governments level in the best interests of our two peoples and sovereign nations to jointly fight the menace of terrorism and religious extremism and the urgent need to operationalize bilateral Border Standing Procedures, intelligence sharing and an earlier “Strategic Partnership Agreement”, creation and activation of existing bilateral mechanisms to fight terrorism and not to allow any terrorist sanctuary or provide asylum to extremists or secessionists on either side of the border;
iii. Not doing anything that is antagonistic to each other and against the national security of each country;
iv. Strengthening each other’s constitutional frameworks, democratic institutions, democratic values, rule of law and constitutional frameworks while respecting universally recognised fundamental human and civil rights, women and minorities; rights in particular;
v. The need to resolve the differences over the demarcation of Afghanistan-Pakistan border through negotiations and peaceful means and, in the meanwhile without prejudice to each other’s position, monitor and manage the border for the security of the two countries and cooperate in fighting terrorists, smuggles and criminals.
vi. Promoting people to people contact, friendship and cooperation in all fields, including, economic, commercial, political, strategic, military, social and physical infrastructures;
vii. Abiding by international covenants, bilateral contracts and fulfilling regional and international responsibilities to promote peace and cooperation which is in the interest of our two peoples;
viii. Rejecting violence and authoritarian practices and respecting pluralism, democracy and tolerance.
And they resolved to pursue and support the following agenda:
1. Given the drawdown of US-led ISAF troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan must forget their differences and join their forces to fill the security void and jointly take the responsibility of maintaining security and stability of the two countries that is mutually interdependent and intrinsically interwoven. They should help a smooth transition and promote reconciliation and peace process to the mutual benefit of both sides and not at each other’s cost.
2. Afghanistan and Pakistan should enter into strategic partnership at all levels to jointly fight the menace of terrorism and religious extremism and operationalize bilateral Border Standing Procedures, intelligence sharing and sign a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” immediately, create and activate existing bilateral mechanisms to fight terrorism and not to allow any terrorist sanctuary or provide asylum to the extremists or secessionists on both sides.
3. Both countries must follow the principles of peaceful co-existence and should respect each other’s sovereignty and integrity and not to interfere in the internal matters of the other side and pay due regard to each other’s national sensitivities and interests.
4. The intelligentsia, academia, media and civil society should ideologically, culturally and politically counter extremist narratives that justify violence, hate speech, intolerance, religious and sectarian extremism while defending Universal Declaration of Human rights, women and minorities; rights and covenants of civil rights, freedom of expression, right to know, right to life. There is no dearth of apologists in both countries who cover up or divert attention from the principal existential threat to our societies from terrorism; they should be persuaded not to lend a supporting hand to those who want to spread anarchy and violence to achieve their nefarious designs.
5. The two neighbours must respect each other’s national sensitivities and interests, economic and security interests in particular, and not let any country use their soil for any aggressive, subversive and negative activities against the other country.
6. The two countries must agree on a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism and take strong measures against terrorist outfits and their hideouts and engage those defiant elements who are prepared to give up their arms and integrate with the mainstream of political life and accept the constitutional frameworks.
7. The security agencies of the two countries must develop greater level of coordination and cooperation instead of shifting their burden on each other or engage in blame game.
8. The quality of police efficiency and response to terrorism needs a lot of improvement. Police force in both countries requires training of a higher order to successfully meet the challenge of terrorism. There has to be a greater synergy between the police and the security forces to achieve better performance in counter terrorism.
9. There is a need to bring more women into formal power structures (including local governments) and into the police and security forces in both countries, given their ability to wield influence over their families and communities; to understand the larger picture and the nature, extent, and consequences of violence and intimidation, human trafficking, drug use; and to inspire a culture of inclusion for the next generation.
10. The necessity of developing a regional consensus among the neighbouring states of Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Iran, India, Russia, China and the Central Asian states, for peace and stability of the region. They must join forces with Pakistan and Afghanistan to bring peace and stability.
11. Military operations alone cannot bring political settlement to the conflict; they must be preceded by diplomatic efforts and help reach peaceful settlement of the conflict while avoiding collateral damage.
12. Cultivation, processing and trafficking of narcotics is a major source of funding for the militants. Efforts must be made to tackle this menace by providing substantial alternative to the farmers.
13. The contact group under the auspices of UN should make long term commitments to sustain Afghanistan’s security forces and help improve Pakistan’s military/intelligence capabilities to fight terrorism while recognising its legitimate national security interests.
14. The two countries must aim for a Bilateral Free Trade Area agreement by taking necessary steps to develop a customs, tariff, fiscal and monetary union to overcome inefficiency, delays, waste, smuggling, dumping and double taxation. Ways could be found to address trade deficit of Afghanistan through investment and services. Reciprocal treatment of truckers of both countries should be ensured.