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Pakistan to participate in peace conference on Afghanistan in Russia

25 March, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria on Friday said Pakistan would participate in a multinational peace conference on Afghanistan, which was scheduled to be held in Russia next month.

At a weekly press briefing, the spokesman said it had not yet been decided on what level Pakistan would participate in the conference. He said it was not clear whether Afghan Taliban would attend the moot or not. "Pakistan will continue its efforts for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan," he said.

The spokesman said Pakistan had decided to open its borders with Afghanistan as a 'goodwill gesture', adding that Afghanistan had been pressed to cooperate on border management. Afghanistan, Iran, India and several Central Asian nations were among the invitees to the Moscow conference. The United States has already turned down the Russian invitation to attend the event.

The spokesman said Pakistan firmly believed in an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process aimed at bringing all warring factions, including the Taliban, to the negotiating table. As regards the outcome, he said that Pakistan constructively participates in these meetings for pursuing lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. "We hope the deliberations in this meeting would be focused on this objective."

Last week, Pakistani officials hosted seven Taliban leaders in Islamabad to try to press the insurgents into peace talks ahead of the Moscow meeting, two Taliban officials told AP.

In Washington on Tuesday, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani called for the US to add to the 8,400 troops currently in Afghanistan where the Taliban have stepped up attacks and the militant Islamic State group also poses a threat.

He said the Afghan government remains open to peace talks but doubted the Taliban would participate unless Pakistan cracked down on 'terrorist safe havens' on its soil, a long-running source of bitterness between the neighbouring countries.

The FO spokesman said Pakistan Day was celebrated throughout the country with zeal and fervour and congratulated the organizers of the military parade for an excellent presentation in connection with the day. He said that Pakistan Day was also celebrated across the length and breadth of Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. "Pakistani flags were fluttering there and entire Jammu and Kashmir region was echoing with Pakistan's national anthem, which is a clear verdict by the Kashmiris as to who they want to be with. And this happens every year and every day. Kashmiris have their eyes on the UN, its members and Security Council, demanding implementation of UNSC Resolutions," he said.

Zakaria said over 30 Hurriyat leaders were put under house arrest and prevented from taking part in Pakistan Day function at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi. He said over 160 youth were arrested from different areas of IHK in last one week alone.

Regarding India arms buildup, the spokesman said that India's relentless arms-buying spree was driven by its desire for regional hegemony and global power status. "Pakistan has never wanted to engage in any kind of arms race. We have long maintained that the two countries need to devote their resources to their socio-economic development and must engage in a meaningful dialogue for mutual restraint measures and conflict resolution for lasting peace and stability in South Asia. The international community has a role to play in prodding India to positively respond to Pakistan's proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia," he said.

To another question, Zakaria said the situation in Indian-held Kashmir had increasingly aggravated since July 2016. "The gross violation of the basic human rights of innocent Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces is deplorable. Pakistan has repeatedly urged the international community to call upon India to stop the bloodshed and ensure resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions. India also continues to indulge in the targeting of innocent Kashmiri civilians in AJK and heighten tension at the LOC, which threatens peace and stability in the region," he said. "No sign of the revival of Pakistan-India dialogue can be found anywhere under these circumstances," he remarked.

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