Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in the General Assembly Debate on “The situation in Afghanistan”
(20 November 2017)

Mr. President,

The General Assembly first adopted a resolution on Afghanistan in 1980. It is not out of place today to recall the circumstances that evoked that resolution and the manner in which those circumstances changed.

Since 1980, Afghanistan has transitioned through almost four decades of foreign military interventions and civil wars, imposing unending suffering on the Afghan people, including millions of innocent men, women and children.

What has remained constant through this period is the support of the international community for the people of Afghanistan. The annual General Assembly resolution is an expression and embodiment of this global support for Afghanistan.

We commend the efforts of Germany in again steering the negotiations on the resolution on the situation in Afghanistan. As in the past, Pakistan has co sponsored the resolution.

Mr. President,

Apart from the people of Afghanistan, it is the people of Pakistan who have suffered the most from the decades of war and violence in Afghanistan. This conflict next door has fundamentally affected Pakistan's polity, economy and society.

Our response to the suffering of our Afghan brothers has been marked by empathy and generosity. Pakistan has offered unprecedented hospitality and support to the Afghan people in the past several decades of their travail and tragedy. My country has continued to host for over three decades close to three million Afghan refugees - the largest protracted presence of refugees anywhere in the world.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately, the long war in Afghanistan continues. Over the last year, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated further with violent insurgent attacks across the country. Civilian casualties have continued to rise due to these attacks and escalating air strikes.

Pakistan strongly condemns the repeated, large scale and orchestrated terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. There is no justification for the indiscriminate attacks against innocent children, women and men.

The intensifying violence and instability in Afghanistan, and the growing presence of Daesh and a large number of other terrorist and militant groups in its ungoverned spaces, is cause for grave concern for the Afghan people, for Afghanistan’s neighbors and for the international community. These terrorist groups pose a clear and present danger for the long-term stability of Afghanistan as well as the entire region.

Mr. President,

The nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking helps to sustain terrorist and extremist groups in Afghanistan. The latest UNODC report indicates that drug production in Afghanistan has rapidly increased.

Mr. President,

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.

Pakistan has been obliged to address the fallout from Afghanistan's serial crises including terrorism. We have deployed 200,000 troops on our western border; we have conducted the largest anti-terrorism campaign anywhere in the world; these military campaigns have succeeded in clearing our tribal areas of almost all militant and terrorist groups.

We have paid a heavy price. Over 27,000 Pakistanis, including 6,500 military and law enforcement personnel, have been martyred as a result of terrorism. Pakistan’s economic losses are estimated at over $120 billion.

Yet, we remain committed to fully implement our National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism. Defeating terrorist violence is vital to realize our overriding priority of rapid economic and social development.

Mr. President,

Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a vital component of the endeavor to realize peace and security within Afghanistan and the entire region.

We have shared comprehensive proposals with Afghanistan to monitor and control the border and for effective border management. They include establishment of a “Ground Coordination Centre” and deployment of Liaison Officers on the international border.

We believe such measures can play a vital role in stopping the cross border movement of terrorists. We hope that the Afghan Government will respond positively to our proposals to strengthen border controls.

Mr. President,

Pakistan has also taken comprehensive and tangible steps over the years to support Afghanistan's economy and development.

Pakistan facilitates the transit of Afghan goods without any quantitative restrictions. We have recently taken a series of additional measures, to facilitate transit trade, including: establishment of round the clock dedicated trade posts, improvement of customs and immigration infrastructure at border crossing points and creation of dedicated lanes for the smooth processing of goods, especially perishable items, to Afghanistan.

Pakistan envisages a future of even closer economic cooperation with Afghanistan. Pakistan has actively promoted the TAPI gas pipeline and the CASA 1000 project, which would address the energy needs of the region and generate significant economic activity in Afghanistan.

We are also working with the Government of Afghanistan to explore other connectivity and infrastructure development projects.

Over 50,000 Afghans have studied in Pakistani educational institutions, and are now working in Afghanistan’s public and private sectors, fulfilling their own dreams and the needs of their country.

We have announced 3,000 scholarships for Afghan students in Pakistani universities and professional colleges. The first batch of these students is already studying at various educational institutions in Pakistan.

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Afghanistan on winning the under 19 Asia Cup.

Mr. President,

Pakistan and Afghanistan share deep historical bonds of religion, culture, and geography. The combined potential of the two countries 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.

Mr. President,

The international community is unanimous in its view that sustainable peace in Afghanistan is achievable only through a negotiated settlement. The resolution that we have adopted today reaffirms this international consensus.

Pakistan has consistently proposed a political settlement as the most viable course to end the decades of conflict and suffering in Afghanistan.

Sixteen years of war, waged by the world’s most powerful forces, have not secured a military solution. Peace will not be restored by the continuing resort to military force. Neither the Coalition and Kabul, nor the Afghan Taliban, can impose a military solution on each other.

The promotion of a political settlement and the pursuit of a military solution in Afghanistan are mutually incompatible. Another resort to the military option without an accompanying political strategy will not produce a result different from the past. It will instead lead to more violence and suffering for the Afghan people and further instability in the region.

It is Pakistan's sincere hope that priority will be accorded to achieving peace through negotiations and reconciliation.

While the international community can help in promoting the peace and reconciliation process, the principal responsibility for this rests with the Afghans themselves.

In this regard, we welcome the Afghan peace and reconciliation plan and hope that it will serve as a first step towards working for a political settlement. We also call on the Afghan Taliban to abandon violence, come to the negotiating table and engage in a serious dialogue for peace.

Pakistan remains ready to help in promoting such a dialogue. Our participation in every regional and international initiative for peace and reconciliation is a testament to this commitment. Pakistan has continued to engage in all processes designed to promote a political solution: the Heart of Asia, 6+1, International Contact Group, Quadrilateral Coordination Group, Moscow Format, and the Kabul process.

Progress however will be assured only when the Afghan parties themselves conclude that there is no military solution to the Afghan war, and peace can be achieved only through an unconditional dialogue.

We hope that wisdom and realism will encourage the Afghan parties to engage in peace negotiations. Such a process is our best hope for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

In conclusion let me say that the path to peace in Afghanistan is arduous but achievable.

However it is up to the Afghan parties themselves to acknowledge that there is no alternative path to peace than an unconditional dialogue, and make the tough but necessary compromises to arrive at a negotiated peace.

The people of Afghanistan deserve no less.