Written Statement by the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations for the UNSC’s Quarterly (VTC) Debate on United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) (22 June 2021)

Madam President,

We thank you for convening this high-level quarterly meeting on Afghanistan.

We would also like to thank all the briefers, in particular the Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, for her statement.

Madam President,

The peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan are inextricably bound together by a common historical, religious, cultural and linguistic heritage as well as shared destinies.

Pakistan has a vital interest in a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan. Apart from Afghanistan itself, no other country has suffered more than Pakistan as a result of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, in a recent statement said and I quote:

"Our country has suffered so much from the wars in Afghanistan. More than 70,000 Pakistanis have been killed."

Madam President,

Pakistan has consistently maintained that the conflict in Afghanistan can be ended, not by military force, but through a political settlement involving the full spectrum of Afghanistan’s political landscape, and through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

As the result of our efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, three major milestones were achieved in 2020: one, the U.S. Taliban Peace Agreement signed on 29 February 2020; two the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on 12 September 2020; and three, the agreement on Rules and Procedures between the Afghan parties in Doha on 2 December 2020.

Madam President,

Today, Afghanistan stands at a critical juncture in its history. It is important that the Afghan leaders seize the historic opportunity to reach an inclusive, broad based and comprehensive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

We reiterate the need for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan, leading to a ceasefire. At the same time, we urge the need for a responsible and orderly withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, coinciding with the overall progress achieved in the peace process.

Any security vacuum in the country will be exploited by the “spoilers” that aim to subvert the peace negotiations and keep Afghanistan as well as the region in a state of constant conflict and turmoil. We must guard against all such spoilers who do not see peace and stability in Afghanistan serving their strategic interests.

Madam President,

In the current fluid political environment in Afghanistan, Pakistan has continued its efforts to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan at the bilateral, regional and international level.

Under the “Troika Plus” format, Pakistan, China, Russia, and the U.S. held meetings on 18 March and 30 April in Moscow and Doha respectively, to help galvanize the Afghan peace process by bringing together all the major stakeholders. This format can continue to make a contribution to reaching a political settlement.

The Foreign Ministers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey held a Trilateral Meeting in Istanbul, on 23 April 2021, during which they reiterated their support for the Afghanistan peace process and for the achievement of a just and durable political settlement of the Afghan conflict.

The 4th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue was held on 3 June 2021. It underscored the importance of a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, in addition to expressing the resolve to deepen cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other regional mechanisms.

The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, held a meeting with the UN Secretary General António Guterres on 20 May 2021 on the side-lines of the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Palestine during which he highlighted Pakistan’s constructive efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process.

Last week, the Pakistan Foreign Minister met with the Chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), H.E. Abdullah Abdullah; the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, H.E. Hanif Atmar; as well as the Head of Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan, Salahuddin Rabbani, on the sidelines of Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF) in Turkey and discussed ways to advance the Afghan peace process.

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff also visited Kabul on 10 May 2021 and in meetings with the Afghan leadership discussed Afghan peace process, bilateral security and defence cooperation, and the need for effective border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

All of these efforts - bilateral, regional and international – are testimony of Pakistan’s strong desire to strengthen the prospects for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Madam President,

Terrorism has had a devastating impact on Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries. The international community must not to allow Afghanistan’s territory to be used by Al-Qaida, ISIL or other international terrorist groups, like the TTP and ETIM to carry out attacks against any country.

Pakistan is especially concerned at the support being provided to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) by a third country to operate and conduct the hundreds of cross-border attacks that have been launched against Pakistan from Afghanistan.

These UN Security Council designated terrorist groups must not be allowed to operate against Pakistan from Afghanistan with external support. We call on the Security Council to take full cognizance of the terrorist activities of these groups and their sponsors.

Madam President,

Peace and stability in Afghanistan will usher in an era of prosperity for Afghanistan as well as the broader region.

Promoting economic connectivity and regional trade is the key to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Through regional connectivity projects, Pakistan and Afghanistan can serve as a bridge connecting Central Asia and the Arabian Sea, offering immense economic opportunities to both countries and the region and help Afghanistan reap the dividends of peace.

Pakistan is Afghanistan’s largest trading partner and continues to provide critical support in the areas of agriculture, health, education, as well as infrastructure development. We have committed over US$ 1 billion to development support in Afghanistan, including US$ 500 million for infrastructure and capacity building projects.

Madam President,

Over the past four decades, Pakistan has provided all possible support to millions of Afghan refugees who sought safety and security on our soil. Pakistan continues to host nearly three million Afghan refugees on its soil to this day. We are proud that we opened our homes for our Afghan brothers and sisters in their hour of need.

Concurrently with the peace process, we expect the international community to develop a time-bound and well-resourced plan for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan. This can provide a key component of endeavours to achieve lasting peace and security in Afghanistan.

Madam President,

Finally, let me reiterate Pakistan’s desire to see a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours. Peace is within the grasp of the Afghan people. They must not let it slip away.

Let me end by quoting the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan:

"We have no favorites and will work with any government that enjoys the confidence of the Afghan people. History proves that Afghanistan can never be controlled from the outside."

I thank you.