By Faiysal AliKhan
A nine member Pakistani delegation comprising senior security officials, members of parliament and media arrived in Kabul on Sunday December 20th, for the first round of regional security working groups meetings, as part Beyond Boundaries, a series of Track 1.5/II meetings between Afghan and Pakistani Security Sector Stakeholders. The initiative is led by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in partnership with Afghan counterpart organization DURAN Research and Analysis. After the successful conclusion of the two-day workshop which ended in both groups agreeing and adopting a joint declaration (reproduced below), both delegations met with the Chief Executive of the National Unity Government, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on December 22nd, 2015 and with the National Security Advisor (NSA) Hanif Atmar at the Presidential Palace on December 23rd, 2015. NSA Atmar promised to take all recommendations to the 16-member National Security Council and conveyed President Ashraf Ghani’s message that his government welcomes and fully supports initiatives like Beyond Boundaries. The NSA said Afghanistan was ready for a multilateral mechanism – including with friendly countries like the USA and China – which could verify allegations and actions against terrorists in both countries.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s commitment to respect and accept Afghanistan’s sovereignty and his recognition of the National Unity Government. He said concrete actions against terrorist networks of all shades could greatly help in bringing the two countries together. He said Afghanistan believed in the sincerity of the Pakistani army and civilian government and hoped that it translates into solid action. He welcomed all Pakistani efforts for the reconciliation process, and expressed his willingness to talk with all those who want to bring peace to Afghanistan. He added that the window of opportunity is brief, and both countries need to accelerate the bilateral dialogue, regain trust and expedite the reconciliation process.
Hanif Atmar said, “States may have differences but nations don’t. We welcome brothers & sisters from Pakistan and must continue to meet to iron out differences. We welcome such tracks to promote relations. Pakistani actions against irreconcilable Afghan Taliban are crucial for National Unity Government’s reconciliation policy. We appreciate PM Sharif’s underlining of Afghan sovereignty and unity government’s legitimacy. Let there be US-China led verification mechanism for action against terrorists in both countries. As long as Haqqanis and other Taliban kill our children, narrative on Pak will not change. Only demonstrable actions against terrorists can get us more time for current peace initiative”. He, while quoting President Ashraf Ghani, said, “Members of Parliament and Civil Society should keep meeting through initiatives”
The 9-member Pakistani delegation is headed by Ms. Shazia Marri (MNA-PPP). Other members include Lt. Gen (retd.) Asif Yasin Malik (Former Secretary Defense), Lt. Gen (retd.) Waheed Arshad Chaudhry (Former Chief of General Staff), Dr. Syiad Ghazi Gulab Jamal (MNA-FATA), Ayesha Gulalai Wazir (MNA-PTI), Dr. Shoaib Suddle (Former Inspector General Police- Sindh), Rozi Khan Kakar (Senator-PPP), Abbas Sarfaraz Khan (Former Federal Minister) and Mr. Muhammad Tahir (Journalist NNI/Express Tribune). The Pakistani delegation is also accompanied by senior journalist Mr. Imtiaz Gul who is the Executive Director of Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Mr. Faiysal AliKhan (CEO FIDA, Currently at Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford)
The Afghan Delegation includes Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi (Former Chief of Staff, Afghan National Army), Gen. Javed Kohistani (Senior Military Analyst), Mr. Abbas Noyan (Former Member of Parliament), Mr. Ahmad Saeedi(Former Diplomat), Ms. Elay Ershad (Former Member of Parliament), Mr. Fahim Dashty (Chief Executive, Afghanistan National Journalists Union), Ms. Fawzia Koofi (Member of Parliament), Mr. Nisar Haress (Senator representing Kabul), Ms. Shukria Barakzai (Former Member of Parliament/Afghanistan’s Ambassador Designate to Norway), Mr. Qutbuddin Helal (Presidential Advisor on Peace) and Mr. Mohammad Nateqi (Member of Afghan Peace delegation to Pakistan).
At the conclusion of the two-day workshop which took place at Kabul from December 21-22, 2015, comprising interactive discussions on Perspectives on Security and Perspectives on Regional Cooperation, both the groups unanimously agreed and adopted the following declaration of policy recommendations:
1. Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations on either side of the border should be condemned. Violence by non-state actors should be condemned and treated as terrorism. Pakistan and Afghanistan should establish clear frameworks to control and stop terrorist financing and dismantle terrorist infrastructure, and other related aspects such as illegal drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and arms and narcotics smuggling.
2. Porous border is a major source of instability in both countries; therefore, the group unanimously urges their respective governments to put in place a stronger mutually coordinated border management mechanism.
3. There is a need for a formal mechanism for coordinated security operations on both sides of the border, establish hotlines, and develop other communication systems between commanders on ground, for intelligence sharing and enforcing developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
4. Urge their respective governments to ensure a check on national and foreign funding of madaris as well as their curriculum in their respective territories.
5. Urge their respective governments to engage media and sensitize them on the need for a balanced and objective coverage so as to contribute to the objectives of peace, reconciliation and bilateral dialogue.
6. A Joint Civil Society Monitoring Commission should be established to monitor and report on the bilateral and multilateral commitments of both governments, with the aim to monitor as well as put pressure for their implementation.
7. In the next meeting, the group will explore the possibility of arriving at a consensus on the definition of terrorism