We will continue to support stable,sovereign-prosperous Afghanistan: Imran Khan

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DUSHANBE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that Pakistan, which had suffered due to the spillover of conflict and instability in the neighbouring country, had an interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. "We will continue to support a stable, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan," he said.

The premier expressed these views while addressing the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) Summit in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry were also present alongside the premier.

"The Taliban must fulfil the pledges made, above all for an inclusive political structure where all ethnic groups are represented. This is vital for Afghanistan’s stability," he said.

The prime minister said that it was also important to ensure respect for the rights of all Afghans while ensuring that it is never again a safe haven for terrorists.

Commenting on the situation in Afghanistan, PM Imran said that a "new reality" had been established after the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of foreign troops.

"That all this happened without bloodshed, without civil war, and without a mass exodus of refugees, should be a matter of relief.

"It is now in the international community’s collective interest to ensure that there is no renewed conflict in Afghanistan and the security situation is stabilised."

The prime minister said that preventing a humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown were "equally urgent priorities".

"We must remember that the previous government depended heavily on foreign aid and its removal could lead to economic collapse," he said, adding that now was the moment to stand with the Afghans "firmly and unequivocally".

He commended the United Nations secretary general and UN agencies for mobilising support for humanitarian assistance, and said that Pakistan was also playing its part in aiding evacuation efforts and providing support.

"Going forward, we believe positive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is extremely important.

"There is a rare opportunity to finally end the 40 years of war in Afghanistan. This moment should not be squandered," he said.

He said that it would be unwise to spread negativity or indulge in propaganda at this critical juncture. "This will only serve to undermine the prospects for peace."

PM Imran said that as the world marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the US, it was reminded that threats posed by terrorism still persist despite the international community's best efforts.

"Associating one religion with terrorism has enabled far right, populist and supremacist groups around the world to propagate, multiply and accumulate influence.

"In some cases, such extremist and bigoted ideologies have ascended to capture the state power in so-called democracies.

"The fight against terror would not be won if we ignore these threats and challenges — the biggest of which is state terrorism, perpetrated against people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories," he said.

He highlighted that Pakistan had suffered for decades due to terrorism that was "planned, supported, financed and orchestrated by state entities from across our border".

"Outside active zones of conflict, no other country has suffered more than Pakistan. We have suffered over 80,000 casualties and economic losses in excess of $150 billion.

"Yet, our resolve remains strong. We will continue to be a reliable and willing partner of the international community in the fight against terrorism and extremism," he said.

PM Imran said that addressing threats to international and regional peace was a topic of vital interest for the SCO.

"We believe that implementation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions for the peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes is a necessary condition for peace, and indispensible for creating an environment of cooperation.

"Unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories in violation of UNSC resolutions run counter to this objective."

He said that such measures must be condemned and opposed firmly.

The premier also highlighted that sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan will ultimately benefit the region, adding that the government had shifted its focus from geopolitics to geoeconomics.

"Our new economic security paradigm has three central pillars: peace, development partnerships, and connectivity."

He said that Pakistan offered the shortest route to the sea for many of its partners in Central Asia, and commended the Uzbekistan president for hosting a conference on regional connectivity in Tashkent last July.

"There is no doubt that the web of rail, road, sea and air links across the SCO region will usher in a new era of enhanced trade, energy flows, and people-to-people exchanges.

"This hard and soft connectivity will contribute significantly to progress and prosperity in the region and beyond," he said, adding that these linkages will be reinforced by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran met on the sidelines of the SCO to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Following their meeting a day earlier, the foreign ministers of the four countries issued a joint statement on Friday in which they expressed concern over the precarious humanitarian and socio-economic conditions in Afghanistan.

They stressed the need to restore peaceful life and start economic recovery and called on the international community to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan on an urgent basis.

During their meeting, the foreign ministers reaffirmed their intention to promote peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole, according to the statement.

They emphasised that the "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan should be respected, the basic principle of 'Afghan-led, Afghan-owned' should be implemented, and the rights to pursue peace, stability, development and prosperity by the Afghan people should be maintained."

They also highlighted the importance of engaging states who they said should "bear primary responsibility" for the post-conflict socio-economic reconstruction in Afghanistan, adding that those states should also provide the war-torn country with the humanitarian and economic aid it urgently needed.

The foreign ministers stressed the need to coordinate efforts to counter threats, especially the spread of terrorism and drug trafficking in view of the security challenges emanating from Afghanistan.

The ministers decided to continue coordination between Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran on Afghanistan and hold meetings at the ministerial, special envoy and the ambassadorial levels in due course, the statement concluded.

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