Peace in Afghanistan to multiply benefits of CPEC, Webinar told

By Shafqat Ali | Gwadar Pro Aug 16, 2023

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 16 (Gwadar Pro)- A webinar was told on Tuesday afternoon that peace in Afghanistan would multiply the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) hosted a webinar titled “Interim Afghan Government in Power - Two Years On”. The webinar was moderated by Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA. The speakers at the webinar included Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, Director General ISSI, Sardar Ahmad Shakeeb, Charge d’Affairs Minister Counselor, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ms. Nargis Nehan, Former Afghan Minister of Mining and Petroleum, Ambassador Ayaz Wazir, Former Pakistani Diplomat, Dr Malick Ceesay, Head of Office, UNAMA Liaison Office, Islamabad, Ambassador Omar Samad, Nonresident Senior Fellow Atlantic Council and  Mr. Adam Weinstein, Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

In his speech, Ambassador Sohail Mahmood stressed that a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan was in the vital interest of Pakistan, while regional economic integration and connectivity – including through CPEC - would benefit all. In the wake of prevailing challenges and opportunities, Ambassador Mahmood emphasized the need for all actors to ensure a prudent response, constructive engagement, and win-win outcomes.

He underscored Pakistan's role in mobilization of international support for preventing a humanitarian crisis and crafting a regional response with Afghanistan’s neighbors through the establishment of Six Neighboring Countries platform.

He added that besides humanitarian assistance, unfreezing of Afghanistan's financial assets was pivotal for building a sustainable economy in Afghanistan. While territorial control had been established and security environment had improved, terrorist attacks by Daesh/ISKP had continued.

“Inclusive governance and girls’ education and women's rights faced restrictions, while terrorist entities targeting Pakistan remained a concern requiring concrete steps by the Interim Afghan authorities.”

In her comments, Amina Khan stated that initially, there was lack of clarity regarding the Taliban's return to power, but the past two years have provided significant insights into the Taliban’s approach, which can be described as a blend of authoritarian policies and pragmatism. Despite lacking formal recognition, the group has consolidated their position as the de facto and not de jure political authority. In spite of shortcomings in the Taliban's governance structure, they have achieved some semblance of stability and security, visible pragmatism regarding the economy, clamped down on corruption and reduced poppy cultivation. However, major concerns continue to persist regarding political and social cohesion, denial of basic yet fundamental human rights, and discrimination against women, further exacerbated by humanitarian crisis and presence of terrorist groups. She said learning from past mistakes is crucial as this is a rare chance for all Afghans to unite and focus on a political system that is inclusive, accountable, and one that serves the Afghan people.

Sardar Ahmad Shakeeb highlighted the Interim government’s achievements in Afghanistan's security and economy.

He noted a substantial 90% reduction in poppy production and highlighted the efforts regarding drug addicts’ rehabilitation, which included a vocational program for drug addiction recovery. While shedding light on other achievements, he said that the economic achievements include combating food insecurity and poverty, reducing inflation from 18% to 9%, and strengthening the Afghan currency against the US dollar. Security measures also included a dedicated ports committee and women's involvement in commerce. Diplomatically, he mentioned that there has been active engagement and high-level meetings between the current dispensation and representatives of various countries and international organizations.

Ambassador Ayaz Wazir acknowledged the present peace in Afghanistan but expressed concern over human rights violations and women's education.

He proposed that a framework be established to effectively address the matter of co-education based on religious principles.

He also urged trust-building between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and suggested Chinese facilitation in bridging the trust gap. Ambassador Wazir also said that Pakistan's priorities in Afghanistan require making decisions that serve its own interests, rather than conforming to the models or desires of any other countries.

Dr. Malick Ceesay highlighted Afghanistan's evolving landscape with the Taliban's security efforts, curbing regional warlord influence and fostering local security. Despite UN and US sanctions, he also acknowledged China's growing influence through diplomatic and economic collaborations. He emphasized challenges in recognition due to Taliban-imposed restrictions on girls' education and women's employment.

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