Pak-Afghan parliamentary dialogue institutionalised

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence & Defence Production briefing media about visit of the committee to Afghanistan at Parliament House. — Photo by INP

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence & Defence Production briefing media about visit of the committee to Afghanistan at Parliament House. — Photo by INP

DAWN, ISLAMABAD, 14th SEPTEMBER 2013: Pakistan and Afghanistan have institutionalised their parliamentary dialogue on security and defence for sorting out differences that have kept their ties unsettled.

A delegation of the Senate committee on defence and defence production, led by its Chairman Mushahid Hussain Sayed, visited Kabul this week for the first parliamentary dialogue on defence, security and military issues with the Defence, Internal Security and Local Administration Committee of the Afghan Meshrano Jirga (upper house of parliament).

After two days of talks, the committees signed a memorandum of understanding for institutionalising the dialogue that will now be held on an annual basis.

They issued a joint declaration urging their governments to strengthen defence ties and work out a joint strategy to cope with security challenges confronting the two countries.

The next round of dialogue will be held in May next year after the Afghan presidential elections.

Senator Sayed said at a press conference here on Friday that the visit was the “first of its kind, historic and path-breaking”.

During their four-day visit members of the delegation also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Defence Minister Gen Bismillah Khan, Chief of Army Staff Gen Karimi and several political leaders.

According to Mr Sayed, President Karzai spoke to the delegation in chaste Urdu and ignored protocol to personally see off the group after the meeting held at his Presidential Palace.

He also recalled the Afghan defence minister and army chief speaking highly about COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for his ‘sincere and serious approach’ on military and border issues.

Despite the cordiality witnessed by the delegation during their stay in Kabul, Senator Sayed and Senator Haji Adeel said doubts persisted in both countries over cross-border terrorism.

“A border management system will have to be instituted to address the issue and bridge the gulf,” Senator Sayed said.

Additionally, the two countries agreed to set up a Pak-Afghan People’s Friendship Association under the leadership of Senator Afrasiab Khattak.

The group will hold a friendship festival in Kabul from Oct 26 to 28 for strengthening people-to-people contacts.

Senator Sayed said the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul was issuing 1,200 visas a day without charging any fee, while at least 55,000 people crossed over from both sides of the border on a daily basis via 124 crossing points.

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