Pakistan renews its promise for peace in Afghanistan

In this file photo, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, left, shakes hands with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP)
Updated 13 October 2018

Pakistan renews its promise for peace in Afghanistan

  • Assures Kabul of all possible steps to facilitate process
  • Developments follow US-appointed envoy’s visit to Islamabad last week

ISLAMABAD: Reiterating Islamabad’s commitment to support the peace process in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured Kabul that Pakistan would extend its full support to work toward the initiative.
While addressing the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Friday, Qureshi added that Pakistan backed an Afghan-led reconciliation process to bring peace to the war-torn country and the region, a statement released by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said.
On Saturday, the Taliban confirmed in a statement that representatives of its political bureau met with US’s newly-appointed Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Doha, Qatar, on Friday.
Before visiting Islamabad last week – where he met with Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to discuss the way forward and seek a political solution to the problem — Khalilzad had also held talks with the Afghan leadership in Kabul.
“The visit took place following the Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington and Secretary of States’ (Mike Pompeo’s) visit to Islamabad where both sides agreed to re-engage and work together on the common objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan through a politically-negotiated settlement,” Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Faisal, told reporters on Thursday during his weekly news briefing.
He added that Pakistan had conveyed to the US that while it would take “all possible steps, in good faith, to facilitate the process for political settlement, it remains a shared responsibility”.
“The role of the US, Afghanistan and other regional players is equally important. That is why ambassador Khalilzad is visiting other countries including the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to elicit their support,” Faisal said.
Senior analyst and an expert on Afghan affairs, Rahimullah Yusufzai, told Arab News that it was expected that Khalilzad would meet important stakeholders, most notably the representatives of the Taliban group, following his appointment.

India says ready to sign Kartarpur agreement with Pakistan on Wednesday

Updated 21 October 2019

India says ready to sign Kartarpur agreement with Pakistan on Wednesday

  • The project is a rare recent example of diplomatic cooperation between the two South Asian rivals
  • New Delhi says “disappointed” by Pakistan’s decision of “levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit”

LAHORE: India has decided to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on October 23, said an official statement issued by New Delhi’s External Affairs Ministry on Monday, even though it expressed its disappointment over Pakistan’s decision to levy $20 service fee per pilgrims and asked Islamabad to reconsider it.

“In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalization of the corridor in time before the Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary on November 12, the government on Monday conveyed [to Pakistan] that India would be ready to sign the agreement on the corridor on Wednesday,” the statement said.

Pakistan is all set to open the world’s largest Sikh temple to pilgrims and the public on Nov. 9, as construction work on the Kartarpur corridor enters its final stages, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on his official Facebook page on Sunday.

The visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur in Pakistan will be inaugurated just ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals, and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder, Guru Nanak on Nov. 12.

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” the Prime Minister said on Facebook.

He added: “World’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”

However, India’s official statement on Monday said it was “a matter of disappointment” that Pakistan continued “to insist on levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit.”

The Kartarpur project is a rare recent example of diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February this year. In August, relations were further inflamed when India flooded its portion of the disputed Kashmir valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.

Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been virtually non-existent, with Pakistan recalling its envoy from India and banning bilateral trade.

But for the Sikh minority population in India’s northern state of Punjab and elsewhere, the diplomatic overture from Pakistan will come as a relief. The community has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just 4 km over the border in Pakistan, and which otherwise requires a lengthy visa and travel process.

Instead of visas, Sikh and other pilgrims will now be given special permits to access the shrine, with online registration from the Indian interior ministry live on Sunday.

Indian Punjab’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has invited the leaders of all Indian political parties to join him to cross the border to the Gurdwara for the opening ceremony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor but it is yet unclear whether he will cross into Pakistan following the event.

Indian pilgrims will pay Pakistan $20 to use the corridor, which includes roadways, a bridge over the Ravi River and an immigration office, with up to 5,000 Indians to be allowed access daily.