Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to strengthen bilateral relations, work for regional peace and stability

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Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan and Afghan president Ashraf Ghani can be seen together during the Guard of Honor ceremony in Islamabad on 27th June, 2019. (PID)
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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit to Pakistan on Thursday. Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood received the president, on June 27, 2019. (PID)
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Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the 14th Islamic Summit in Makkah-tul-Mukarramah on May 31, 2019. (PID)
Updated 27 June 2019

Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to strengthen bilateral relations, work for regional peace and stability

  • PM Khan and Afghan President Ghani agree enduring peace in Afghanistan would bring rich economic dividends to both countries
  • Pakistan underscores respect for Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan and Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on Thursday agreed to open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between the two countries based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
According to an official handout circulated by the country’s foreign office, the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting that was followed by delegation-level talks.
The prime minister affirmed that Pakistan wanted a qualitative transformation in its relations with Afghanistan as part of his vision of a “peaceful neighborhood.” He also said that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only viable option to end decades-long conflict in Afghanistan, adding that his country supported a result-oriented intra-Afghan dialogue.
The prime minister underscored Pakistan’s respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and its commitment to stand by the Afghan people at this crucial juncture.
The two leaders agreed that enduring peace in Afghanistan would bring rich economic dividends to both countries and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to broaden and deepen bilateral trade, streamline transit trade, and strengthen efforts for connectivity.
“It was recognized that early completion of major energy connectivity projects such as Central Asia-South Asia (CASA 1000) electricity transmission line and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline will bring long-term economic benefits to the countries involved,” said the foreign office statement.
Earlier in the day, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani arrived in Islamabad on a two-day, just days after Islamabad hosted a conference of Afghan tribal and political leaders to discuss ways to end conflict in Afghanistan.
President Ghani was received by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and other officials at Rawalpindi’s Nur Khan air base during a traditional welcome reception.
This is Ghani’s third visit since 2014 and comes at a time when the United States is engaged in talks with the Taliban and has picked up effort to reach a political settlement to end decades of war in Afghanistan.
“On the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani will be visiting Pakistan on 27-28 June 2019,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in another statement released prior to the visit.
The Afghan president is accompanied by a high-level delegation of ministers, advisers, senior officials and business people.
Ghani is also expected to meet President Dr. Arif Alvi and hold “wide ranging talks” focusing on “strengthening bilateral cooperation in diverse areas – including political, trade, economic, security, peace and reconciliation, education and people-to-people exchanges,” the foreign office said.
The Afghan president will also travel to Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, where he will participate in a business forum attended by representatives from both countries.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News last week, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Atif Mashal said the Kabul government was “cautiously optimistic” that Ghani’s visit would open a new chapter in bilateral relations.
Taliban and US officials have held several rounds of talks since December and say they are close to agreeing a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on US targets.
But Ghani’s government has been shut out of negotiations by the Taliban’s refusal to deal with what they consider an illegitimate “puppet” regime.
Islamabad says its influence over the Taliban has waned in recent years and that it strongly favors a political settlement to maintain stability in Afghanistan. Afghan officials remain cautious.
US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the push to broker a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban, has held several rounds of talks with Pakistani officials to smooth the way.
Last week, dozens of Afghan politicians and opposition leaders gathered in Pakistan to discuss ways to achieve peace.


'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

Updated 19 October 2020

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

  • Fisherfolk forum says government plan to allow Chinese to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could render millions jobless 
  • Federal government says bottom trawling will not be allowed under new fishing policy

KARACHI: A pressure group that represents Pakistani fishermen has said a government plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters could threaten the survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.
Last month, 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi, unleashing fear among local fishermen who say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 
Bottom trawling - dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish - stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
The coastal line of Sindh and Balochistan is 1,050 km long, Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told Arab News last week, saying around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. 
A new fishing policy is expected but yet to be revealed by the government, he said. 
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved but before that they [China] have brought these trawlers,” Shah said, calling the arrival of the Chinese vessels at Karachi port last month ‘illegal.’ 

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that both fishermen's representative bodies and provincial government bodies opposed, calling it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.
Fears about foreign fishing companies eating up local communities are not new.
For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Balochistan province - a flagship of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - have protested against foreign trawlers. 
Tensions first began to mount when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to various foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.
But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, told Arab News the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.
“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”
Pakistan divides its sea into three zones, where zone-3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles) is controlled by the federal government. Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of the provinces Sindh and Balochistan and between 12 to 20 nautical miles the sea is declared a buffer zone. 

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Oct. 6, 2020. (AFP/File)

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in zone-3 and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.
The Fishermen's Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.
Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at roughly $450 million.
“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society, told Arab News.
“Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats,” Berr said. 
He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.
But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.
“We will...also oppose its [trawlers’] operations in zone-3 because they will just wipe out sea-life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.
In 2016, a survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.
“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.” 
Tens of thousands of fishing boats are registered in Pakistan, he said, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.
“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.”