Pak can facilitate reconciliation process in Afghanistan: Nat’l Security Adviser Aziz, tells The Oslo Times
Pakistan‘s National Security Adviser, economist and strategist Sartaj Aziz, who is also a key adviser to Pakistan‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke to The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar, about his trip to Oslo The importance of education in the developing World and Afghan-Pak relations and the advances the two governments have made in this regards.
The Excerpts below give us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with us today. I know you are on a tight schedule so without further ado, will you please tell us what brings you to Oslo?
Well, this is an Education Summit on its development that has been organized for the past one or two years. The Summit looks at the fact that we have not paid much attention to education in the millennium development goals.
When these goals were formulated in the 2000s, they were very ambitious in terms of health but not education. So the results were also minimal. This is a reason why 60 million students today are out of school and the total gap is higher with the financial gap declining. While aid to education is decreasing, health assistance programs like awareness on malaria and a number of other health related plans have been very successful.
The sustainable development goals formulated two years ago, with education prioritized, are likely to be finalized this September for the next 15 years. In this context, Norway has taken the lead and Prime Minister Erna Solberg decided to convene this conference, inviting a number of head of states, government officials, experts and top brass of the United Nations agencies to prepare the ground for this priority. As truancy rate has increased with one third of them affected by emergencies like floods, earthquakes, terrorism and civil wars, new subjects have also been added to address the issue.
The key achievement has been setting up a commission under Gordon Brown to discuss the requirements for education, because by now we know what to do, but that also requires political will and resources. Political will on the part of developing countries and resources on the part of developed countries so that the goals could be met. The conference has been a very good achievement for the Norwegian government and I hope that the follow up action will achieve the objective and by 2030 all children will receive proper education — not only primary but also secondary education.
My next question is regarding the Afghan-Pak relations as you have been one of the key players in efforts to improve the relations between these countries. What are your personal views on the Afghan-Pak relations? Will they share a mutual relationship in future?
Well, I think our relationship is growing very rapidly since the time President Ashraf Ghani took over. He came to Pakistan in November and asked to forget the past misunderstanding and look to the future. Since then, some important decisions have been made from both sides. Firstly, we decided not to let our territories be used by a third state. The second decision was that
Afghanistan‘s enemy will be Pakistan‘s enemy and vice versa. It has also been agreed to promote regional integration. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan lie between three important regions — Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia. And these two countries can become the pivots between trade and connectivity in these regions.
Obviously the pre-requisite for all this cooperation was peace in Afghanistan, so it was already decided when Pakistan agreed to help the reconciliation process. We cannot decide or dictate what the Taliban and other terrorist groups should do but facilitate the reconciliation process because of the context we share with them. But ultimately this is an Afghanistan-led process of dialogue and discussion.
The Pashtun community on both sides of the Afghan-Pak border are raising questions on why they are becoming the victims of attacks by authorities in their bid to destroy terror groups, and it is not just them– Pakistan‘s military operation southwest Waziristan has also left a lot of casualties. What are your views on this?
These are two completely different issues involved here. First of all, we had a large number of people after the 9/11 when the American and other forces attacked Afghanistan. A large number of Taliban along with their supporters, the Uzbeks and other militants fighting in Afghanistan were pushed into our tribal areas. Their arrival became a threat to us in due course. So in the last few years after the 2009 Swat operations in South Waziristan, we have started operations in the North. We have cleared out all the insurgents now. A close-border operation is required there so that nobody passes from here. And that is what we mean by not letting our territory be used against each other.
Secondly, a large number of criminal activities and smuggling have been going around in the border itself, be it timber, drug or car smuggling. They (smugglers) and the terrorists are in some sort of mix because they seek entrance from there. To counter that, we have set up border operating procedures.
The military will meet at local level to make sure quadrangle operations take place between our militaries, intelligence, security and political level. Of course the Talibans are not the only ones fighting in the local Keshkar missions; foreign fighters like Tajiks, Uzbeks or Chechens are also causing commotions. We are hoping that once the prospects of reconciliation talks improve and the talks between Taliban and Afghan government begin, there will be some improvement in the level of resurrections.
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