Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council Debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) (16 March 2015)

Mr. President,

It is an honour to make my maiden statement in the Security Council on the vital issue of Afghanistan and under your skilled Presidency.

We thank the Secretary General for his report. We welcome the perceptive statement of the Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr. Nicholas Haysom, who we had the pleasure of receiving in Islamabad recently. And I welcome the statement by Ambassador Tanin.

Mr. President,

The renewal of UNAMA's mandate today comes at a defining moment for Afghanistan, a moment of hope for its people and the entire region.

Pakistan has welcomed the peaceful transition in Afghanistan and the formation of the National Unity Government, led by President Ashraf Ghani. Pakistan whole-heartedly endorses his Decade of Transformation and the programme for effective governance, economic and social development and national reconciliation.

Mr. President,

President Ashraf Ghani's historic visit to Islamabad last November and his talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif succeeded in overcoming in 3 days the accumulated challenges of 13 years and produced a strategic shift in Pakistan-Afghan relations.

The leaders of the two countries share a vision of a partnership built on multiple pillars of common security and economic interests. They have committed not to allow their respective territories to be used against each other. They have initiated actions to intensify security cooperation, promote bilateral trade, streamline transit trade and forge a close economic relationship. Renewed interaction in the military and intelligence sphere has strengthened mutual confidence.

We are working to strengthen border controls and cooperation. Pakistan's Zarb-e-Azb military operation has targeted all terrorist groups without distinction. Afghanistan's cooperation against terrorists targeting Pakistan is greatly appreciated in Islamabad.

Mr. President,

The security challenges confronting Afghanistan remain imposing. As anticipated, violence has escalated. The Taliban will no doubt test the mettle of the Afghan National Security Force. It will need to demonstrate to them that a military solution is not possible. The new Afghan Government has called for a dialogue to resolve differences through political means. There are encouraging indications that the Taliban may be willing to negotiate with the National Unity Government. We hope they will join the reconciliation process. It is for the Afghan Government to set out the terms and framework for such reconciliation.

The international community should actively support this process. Pakistan will do all that is possible to facilitate it. We welcome China's closer engagement in promoting reconciliation and economic development in Afghanistan. As the Secretary General has warned in his Report, peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is not likely to be fast or smooth. The Afghan parties and the international community will need to exercise strategic patience. Those who may desire to disrupt the peace process should be discouraged. They are on the wrong side of history.

Mr. President,

Security and development are interdependent. A priority aim must be to break the nexus between drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism. We share the Secretary General's concern regarding the deterioration in the Afghan economy. Short-term measures for economic revival will need to be accompanied by steps to lay the foundations for self-sustained growth. The road, rail and trans-regional energy projects envisaged by Pakistan and Afghanistan will contribute to creating this foundation.

The Afghan refugees in Pakistan - still the largest single country refugee population anywhere in the world - can make a valuable contribution to Afghanistan's economic revival. We welcome President Ghani's resolve to bring them back home and provide a roadmap to do so within a specified timeframe. UNAMA should accord priority to assisting the process of refugee repatriation and resettlement.

UNAMA’s core work in capacity building and supporting the Afghan government in coordination of assistance and in reconstruction, socio-economic growth and good offices remains vital.

Mr. President,

The destinies of the peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan are inextricably interlinked - by geography, history, culture, language and religion.

Such ties cannot be cut asunder by the tides of power or politics. For the past 35 years, the people of Pakistan have shared in the suffering and tragedies of the Afghan people. Now, with the dawn of hope, we look forward, InshaAllah, to share in the triumph of peace and development in Afghanistan.