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Afghanistan, Pakistan form panel to share intel

By Rezaul H Laskar
January 28, 2011 03:05 IST
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Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to form a Joint Reconciliation Commission comprising the Foreign Ministers and military and intelligence officials as part of enhanced bilateral consultations in the run-up to the reduction US troops in the war-torn country.

The decision to form the joint commission was announced at a news conference by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his visiting Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul in Islamabad.

The commission will have two tiers, one comprising the Foreign Ministers and another consisting of representatives of the foreign ministries, military and intelligence services, Qureshi said. Kabul and Islamabad have stepped up consultations, especially on Afghanistan's reconciliation process with the Taliban, ahead of American plans to scale down its military presence in Afghanistan from July this year.

The US plans to completely withdraw its troops by 2014. The reintegration and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan are part of an Afghan-led process and Pakistan will facilitate and assist these moves, Qureshi said. The two sides decided to form the joint commission as there was a need for a formal mechanism for consultations by the "political, military and intelligence components", he said.

Rassoul said the Afghan peace process comprised two parts – reintegration and reconciliation. The Afghan government is now involved in reintegration by "bringing on board foot soldiers which are not ideologically linked to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups",he said. Reconciliation is only possible with those elements who accept the Afghan constitution and women's rights and do not oppose education, he said.

Qureshi said Thursday's meeting with his Afghan counterpart also focussed on consultations for a trilateral meeting with the

US to be held in Washington next month. "It was a useful interaction in building trust and confidence and we agreed to jointly write a new chapter in bilateral relations," he said. Both sides reiterated their commitment to eliminateterrorism, he said. Pakistan and Afghanistan have a better understanding of the culture, terrain, area and people in the militancy-affected areas of the two countries and solutions suggested by them could be "more result-oriented, Qureshicontended. The two Foreign Ministers decided to set up a joint working group comprising trade officials to oversee the implementation of the new Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. They also agreed to establish a process of consultations to take steps to enhance connectivity, upgrade rail and road links and improve communication facilities.

Both sides agreed to establish a bilateral mechanism for cooperation and consultation for mutual legal assistance, including the issue of prisoners and consular matters.
The two countries will also study modalities for establishing a "Joint Consultation, Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism" for devising framework agreements for cooperation in energy, agriculture, mines and minerals and special industrial zones, a joint statement said.

During a meeting with Rassoul, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stressed the need for uniting efforts by both countries to deal with issues that have disturbed peace, security and stability in the region.

Gilani called for fast-tracking connectivity projects in rail and road sectors and for joint efforts to make progress on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and the Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission line.

Gilani accepted Afghan President Hamid Karzai's invitation to visit Kabul.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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