We thank Special Representative Jan Kubis for his comprehensive briefing to the Council today. His dynamic leadership and UNAMA’s effective role continue to contribute to stabilization in Afghanistan.
We welcome Ambassador Zahir Tanin, the Perma-nent Representative of Afghanistan, in the Council and deeply appreciate his statement, as well as q1 the perspective he has shared with us.
Afghanistan stands at the threshold of a consequential year; and the people of Afghanistan are taking important steps in coming months to shape their destiny. We wish our Afghan brothers and sisters success as they negotiate difficult political, security and economic transitions.
The political transition requires smooth electoral process and an inclusive, 'integrative reconciliation.
Timely, inclusive, transparent and credible elections will have a salutary impact on efforts for peace and stability. The Afghan Government is making extensive preparations for the elections. Security challenges to the electoral process ought to be addressed in the early stages of planning, as underlined by the Secretary General.
Simultaneously, an inclusive, Afghan-led and Af-ghan-owned peace and reconciliation process must take off and succeed. A political settlement is cen-tral to this process. We have called on all stakeholders to seize this opportunity and support the peace efforts. This is imperative to reverse the destructive cycle of conflict.
For its part, Pakistan will not choose sides, //play favorites or interfere in the internal affairs of Af-ghanistan. Nor should any other country. The people of Afghanistan must have the necessary strategic and political space to make their own decisions.
Pakistan would continue to do all it can to help Af-ghanistan sustain the reconciliation process. At the request of the Afghan leadership, Pakistan appealed to the Taliban to enter into dialogue with the Afghan government. We have released Taliban prisoners, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and facilitated his dialogue with the High Peace Council. Our leadership, at the highest level, remains engaged with the Council, which is making commendable efforts for peace under the leadership of Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani.
We feel that the potential of the Doha Process, or a similar process, must be explored to accelerate the pace of reconciliation and political settlement.
The drawdown of NATO/ISAF Forces in Afghanistan should not lead to a security vacuum. It is vital that arrangements are in place beyond 2014 to bolster stability in Afghanistan and its neighbourhood. The Afghan security forces and institutions are gaining increased capacities and capabilities, as the Secretary General has noted.
The transformation of a war economy to a peace time economy will require more reliance on strong domestic growth and resources. The Secretary General’s report indicates a slowdown in economic growth because of the uncertainty surrounding the political and security transitions. This can be turned around by active involvement and continued assistance of the international community for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development. This is important not just for economic viability but political stability.
Pakistan, despite its own resource crunch, is con-tributing to Afghanistan's economic reconstruction. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his recent visit to Kabul, announced enhancement of our assistance for reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan from US$ 385 million to US$ 500 million.
The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are joined by strong bonds of geography, history and kinship. These bonds would never be atrophied.
A peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghani-stan is in Pakistan’s interest. Prime Minister Sharif during his recent visit to Kabul said: " Your stability is our stability."
In developing its relations with Afghanistan, Paki-stan is focused on three interlocking dimensions: Afghan peace and reconciliation process; a strong comprehensive bilateral relationship, with an em-phasis on trade and economic partnerships; and regional economic cooperation.
We appreciate the Secretary General's positive eval-uation of the constructive engagement between Pa-kistan and Afghanistan on economic cooperation, security issues and peace process. Mr. Kubis today has mentioned the positive momentum in the Pak-Afghan relations to build trust and foster coopera-tion. I welcome his remarks.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reaching out to Af-ghan leadership in pursuance of his vision for a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood.
In their three meetings in Islamabad, London an Kabul, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Hamid Karzai have resolved to craft a strategic partnership, address common challenges of extremism and terrorism, and work for economic development that benefits the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan , as well as the entire region.
Our two countries have agreed to enhance connec-tivity, including through a motor-way between Peshawar and Kabul and rail-links between Peshawar and Jalalabad and Chaman and Spinbolduk. We are planning for a hydro power project on the Kunar river.
We are also confident that our two countries will be able to enhance our bilateral trade to US$5 billion by 2015.
We have assured Afghanistan of optimum utilization of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement to facilitate its access to foreign markets through Pakistani seaports and land routes.
People to people contacts have also increased. This year another 600 Afghan students are joining thou-sands already pursuing higher studies in Pakistan.
On the regional plane, we also agreed to accelerate trans-regional projects, including CASA-1000 pro-ject and TAPI gas pipeline.
The international community, led by the United Nations, and the Afghan government should create conducive conditions for early return and sustainable reintegration of over 3 million registered and undocumented Afghan refugees still in Pakistan. Pakistan has renewed their stay and legal status till the end of 2015. Pakistan will not be able to absorb fresh inflows of refugees.
The report of the Secretary General refers to record levels of poppy cultivation and opium production in Afghanistan. Illicit drug production and trafficking fuel instability and ruin health and security of hun-dreds of millions of lives, as Mr. Kubis noted in his briefing today. Pakistan's is directly affected by nar-cotics trade. We have been taking part in regional efforts in this regard and hope that the Afghan gov-ernment would be able to eliminate poppy cultiva-tion with the support of regional and international organizations.
It is incumbent on us to secure the Pakistan-Afghanistan border through constant vigilance, ef-fective management and real time communication. Militants should not be allowed to trigger rounds of escalation by pitting border security forces against each other. More importantly, we should have regu-lar contacts between the armed forces and intelli-gence agencies of the two countries to prevent peri-odic volatility along the border.
The United Nations' role in supporting the Afghan people and government is crucial in the post-2014 period. We agree with the Secretary General that the UN should concentrate on good offices, support of Afghan-led political processes, and coherent approaches to equitable and sustainable development.
Let me conclude by quoting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who in his recent visit to Kabul said: "Paki-stan has a vital stake in Afghanistan’s success in its journey to peace and development and I reassure you that Pakistan will stand by and support the Af-ghan people every step of the way"
I thank you Mr. President.