Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, in the Security Council debate on “Building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development” (19 January 2018)

Mr. President,

On behalf of the Pakistan delegation, I would like to congratulate Kazakhstan on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council and for organizing this important debate.

It is almost a truism that there can be no development without peace and no peace without development. The situation in Afghanistan illustrates how the absence of security prevents economic development, and lack of economic development breeds and fuels conflict and insecurity.

Despite the large presence of foreign military forces and the huge outlays of external assistance, security has deteriorated and economic growth has remained anemic in Afghanistan.

Yet, there is great promise in Afghanistan. It is a strategically located country, which can act as a bridge between its multiple neighbors; between South and Central Asia, between West and East Asia.

Muhammad Iqbal, the poet who first conceived of Pakistan as an independent state, also described Afghanistan as the Heart of Asia. Presciently, the Poet of the East declared – over a century ago – that if there is instability in Afghanistan, Asia will be unstable; while peace in Afghanistan will bring peace and prosperity to the entire region.

The people of Afghanistan have paid a heavy price for over four decades of foreign invasions and bloody civil wars. So have the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan’s closest neighbor.

Indeed, the entire region has been buffeted by the war, turmoil, terrorism, drugs and instability radiating from Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

We in Pakistan recognize the imposing challenges that face Afghanistan in realizing economic and social development. We commend the security and economic reforms envisaged by the Afghan Government.

Strengthening bilateral relations is a priority for my Government. We have taken a number of initiatives to support Afghanistan’s economic development.

We have done all we can to improve the transit of Afghan trade through our ports. We look forward to the day when transit trade from Central Asia could flow through Afghanistan and Pakistan – the shortest route to the Arabian Sea.

50,000 Afghan students have studied in Pakistan’s universities and we also offer them 3,000 scholarships.

Pakistan is committed to several regional projects, like TAPI and CASA-1000, which will contribute to the economic integration of the entire region.

Pakistan has also committed US$ 1 billion over the last decade to various infrastructure, road networks and development projects in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

None of our efforts to support Afghanistan’s economic development however can be successful without the restoration of peace.

Sadly, civil war continues in Afghanistan. Over 40 percent of the country is under insurgent control, contested or ungoverned. Illicit drug trafficking provides the insurgent groups with a steady financial income estimated at US$ 400 million a year.

Indeed with its safe havens inside the country and income from the narcotics trade, the insurgency doesn't need any outside assistance or ‘support centers’ to sustain itself. Afghanistan and its partners, especially the US, therefore need to address these challenges inside Afghanistan rather than shift the onus for ending the conflict onto others. Those who imagine sanctuaries outside need a reality check.

And those who talk of changing mindsets need to look within, at their own record of subversion against my country as our capture of an Indian spy has proven beyond doubt.

Mr. President,

The international community has affirmed, time and again, that sustainable peace is only achievable through a negotiated end to the war. The Presidential Statement the Council adopted this morning again reiterates this firm consensus.

After 17 years of war, it is more than evident that neither the Afghan government and its military partners, nor the Afghan Taliban are in a position to impose a military solution on each other.

The continuing resort to military force and escalation of the conflict without an accompanying political and diplomatic strategy will not yield a result different from what we have seen. It will produce more violence, not a political solution.

It is not enough to pay lip service to a negotiated settlement and then do little other than execute a strategy of force and coercion under the delusion that this will work. At the same time we call on the Taliban to abandon the path of violence and join talks.

There is in fact an urgent need to pursue a credible and sustained peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan aimed at finding a negotiated peace.

Pakistan’s participation in all regional and international forums on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is a reflection of our commitment and unflinching support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Mr. President,

Apart from Afghanistan, it is Pakistan, which has the most to gain from peace in Afghanistan.

We continue to host the largest protracted presence of refugees anywhere in the world.

My country has been the major victim of terrorism and violence emanating from Afghanistan’s wars. We have fought and are defeating terrorism within Pakistan. Pakistan’s counter terrorism campaign, the largest in the world, deploying a 200,000 strong force, has turned the tide of terrorism in the country.

Our ability to totally eliminate terrorist attacks in Pakistan depends on effective control of our long border with Afghanistan.

We have enforced stringent border management measures on our side of the border, which have yet to be matched on the other side by the Afghan government.

For our part we are committed not to allow Pakistan’s soil to be used for attacks against any country.

Mr. President,

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

While the international community, including Pakistan and Afghanistan’s other neighbors, can help in promoting a peace process and assist the country in its development goals, ultimately the principal responsibility for achieving peace rests on the Afghans themselves.

Pakistan is committed to extend its full cooperation bilaterally and within all regional frameworks.